Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico

The Classical Now



What is it about Greek and Roman art that still captivates the modern imagination? How can contemporary art help us to see the classical legacy with new eyes? And what can such modern-day responses – set against the backdrop of others over the last two millennia – tell us about our own cultural preoccupations in the twenty-first century? 

Presented in partnership with Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins (MACM), The Classical Now  was a major exhibition at King’s College London. Staged across two spaces, the newly renovated Arcade of Bush House, and the Inigo Rooms in Somerset House East Wing, the exhibition featured classical, modern and contemporary works. Through the pairing of modern and contemporary art with classical Greek and Roman antiquities The Classical Now  explored the ways in which Graeco-Roman art has captured and permeated the modern imagination. 

The Classical Now Blue Venus DACSYves Klein, Blue Venus (S 41), 1962. Dry pigment and synthetic resin on plaster 69.5 × 30 × 20 cm. © Yves Klein estate, ADAGP Paris / DACS, London, 2018; Image © Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins (MACM) 2018

Alongside ancient Greek and Roman objects in marble, bronze, ceramic and mosaic, The Classical Now  exhibited works by Edward Allington, Pablo Bronstein, Léo Caillard, Jean Cocteau, Michael Craig-Martin, André Derain, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Damien Hirst, Alex Israel, Derek Jarman, Yves Klein, Louise Lawler, Christopher Le Brun, Roy Lichtenstein, George Henry Longly, Ursula Mayer, Henry Moore, Bruce Nauman, Christodoulos Panayiotou, Giulio Paolini, Grayson Perry, Frances Picabia, Pablo Picasso, Marc Quinn, Mary Reid Kelley & Patrick Kelley, Sacha Sosno, Mark Wallinger and Rachel Whiteread. Paris-based artist Léo Caillard, known for dressing classical statues in contemporary attire, was commissioned to produce a new installation for the exhibition titled To The Friendship Between the Classical and the Contemporary, located on the Aldwych side of Bush House.

The exhibition also incorporated Liquid Antiquity: Conversations, a video-installation featuring interviews with six contemporary artists: Matthew Barney, Paul Chan, Urs Fischer, Jeff Koons, Asad Raza and Kaari Upson. The work was commissioned by the DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art and designed by Diller, Scofidio + Renfro



The Classical Now  formed part of a larger research project on ' Modern Classicisms' in King’s College London’s Department of Classics led by Michael Squire. The exhibition was curated by Michael Squire (Reader in Classical Art at King's), James Cahill and Ruth Allen (post-doctoral fellows in the Modern Classicisms project) and was timed to coincide with the  Annual Meeting of the Association for Art History in April 2018 – Europe’s largest meeting of art historians, curators and teachers, which was co-hosted by King’s and the Courtauld Institute of Art.

The Classical Now  was accompanied by a catalogue, published in February 2018. More information about the exhibition, and the research project from which it derives, can be found here.

The Classical Now was presented by the Department of Classics, the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, in partnership with the Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins (MACM). It was supported by the university's Culture team.

Stay in touch

Email the Culture team

Sign up to the newsletter

Faculties and departments


Celebrating The Classical Now


“Interrelationships between antiquity and modernity have given rise to a new research project in the Department of Classics at King’s during the 2017–2018 academic year. ”