Modern classic house 2018

The Classical Now paired the work of modern and contemporary artists with classical Greek and Roman antiquities, tracing the ways in which Graeco-Roman art has captured and permeated the modern imagination.  It examined classical presences in the works of twentieth-century artists such as Pablo Picasso and Yves Klein, and leading contemporary artists including Damien Hirst, Alex Israel, Louise Lawler, Grayson Perry and Rachel Whiteread. The show explored the myriad continuities and contrasts between the ancient, modern and contemporary, revealing the ‘classical’ as a living and fluid tradition.

Exhibited works ranged from classical Greek and Roman artefacts (in bronze, ceramic, marble and mosaic) to contemporary painting, sculpture, video and photography. The exhibition also featured contemporary works in which classical forms receive provocative new expression – house such as the fragmentary bodies by contemporary artist Marc Quinn – alongside more oblique or suggestive uses of ancient themes, such as Bruce Nauman’s landmark video performance, Walk with Contrapposto (1968).

Paris-based artist Léo Caillard, known for dressing classical statues in contemporary attire, was commissioned to produce a new for the exhibition.

Alongside ancient Greek and Roman objects, The Classical Now exhibited work 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. The show also incorporated the video-installation, ‘Liquid Antiquity: Conversations’, featuring interviews with six contemporary artists (Matthew Barney, Paul Chan, Urs Fischer, Jeff Koons, Asad Raza and Kaari Upson) – commissioned by the, and designed by Diller, Scofidio + Renfro.

The Classical Now forms part of the larger  ‘’ project, led by Michael Squire in the Department of Classics (part of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities) at King’s College London. The exhibition was curated by Michael Squire (Reader in Classical Art at King’s), and James Cahill and Ruth Allen (post-doctoral fellows in ‘Modern Classicisms’). Michael Squire says: ‘The Classical Now is intended to prompt questions: about how ancient art still captivates and provokes the modern imagination; how contemporary visual culture might help us to see the classical tradition with new eyes; and about what modern-day responses – set against the backdrop of others over the last two millennia – can tell us about our own cultural preoccupations.’ James Cahill and Ruth Allen add: ‘The exhibition is about what the classical means, or looks like, now; the idea is to show that there is no one “route” between antiquity and modernity, but instead multiple interconnections.’

Those interconnections were also central to the vision of exhibition partner, (Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins).  The museum’s collection ranges from Egyptian sarcophagi and Graeco-Roman bronze busts of Apollo and Augustus through to works by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Yves Klein and Damien Hirst. The Classical Now saw around 20 works from MACM travel to London, many of them exhibited in Britain for the first time; the exhibition featured over 50 works in total.

The Classical Now was also timed to coincide with the Annual Conference of the  – Europe’s largest meeting of art historians, curators and teachers, which was co-hosted by King’s College London and the Courtauld Institute of Art.

The Classical Now was presented by Cultural Programming at King’s College London, in partnership with MACM (Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins). A with the same title (RRP £30) accompanied the exhibition, produced by Elephant Publishing: the book features interviews with many of the artists featured in the show, alongside essays by some of the leading voices in the fields of classics and art history.

The Classical Now also exhibited work by students and staff at King’s and The Courtauld – responding to the question ‘What does the “classical” mean to you?’. The full range of student and staff works – including films, collage, photographs, paintings and musical compositions – can be viewed. A section of works was displayed in the Bush House Arcade, Arcade Café and The Union Shop; many have been acquired by the at King’s, and are now on permanent display in the Strand campus.

The Department of Classics and Faculty of Arts & Humanities at King’s put together a cultural programme of events to accompany the exhibition: for further details, click.

You can read more about different aspects of the exhibition (along with press reviews) on our.

Admission to The Classical Now was free and open to all: visitors continue to share their thoughts, photos and responses using the hashtag #TheClassicalNow.

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