Ruin Lust

Works by JMW Turner, Eduardo Paolozzi and Rachel Whiteread are used to explore how ruins have been used in art, from the 17th century to the present day.

In the 18th century, artists, writers and architects became fascinated with ruins. JMW Turner and John Constable were among those who travelled around Britain in search of ruinous landscapes, producing works including Tintern Abbey: The Crossing and Chancel, Looking towards the East Window (Turner) and Sketch for Hadleigh Castle (Constable).

As well as picturesque images of ruin caused by decay, there are examples where ruination has been caused by sudden disaster, such as John Martin's reimgining of The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Meanwhile, Graham Sutherland’s Devastation series depicts the aftermath of the Blitz and photographs by Jane and Louise Wilson capture the Nazis' defensive Atlantic Wall.

More recently, ruinous iconography has been revisited – and sometimes even mocked – by artists such as Keith Arnatt, who photographed the historic and modern elements at heritage sites for his series A.O.N.B.(Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty). Classical ruins can also be seen in works by Eduardo Paolozzi, Ian Hamilton Finlay and John Stezaker, as well as Rachel Whiteread, whose Demolished – B: Clapton Park Estate shows the demolition of Hackney tower blocks.

Don't miss

Two rooms are entirely devoted to the contemporary artists Tacita Dean and Gerard Byrne. In his installation, 1984 and Beyond, Byrne presents a re-enactment of a discussion, published in Playboy in 1963, in which science fiction writers – including Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke – speculate about what the world might be like in 1984.


Venue details

Tate Britain Millbank London SW1P 4RG 020 7887 8888 www.tate.org.uk

Entry details

£5 with National Art Pass (standard entry £10)

Daily, 10am – 6pm (last admission 5.15pm)
Closed 24 – 26 Dec