Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde

Barbican Art Gallery

10 October 2018 – 27 January 2019

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Think modern art has been defined by the solitary genius? Think again, suggests this exhibition at the Barbican.

John Kasnetsis, Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst with his sculpture, Capricorn, 1947

Looking at the creative output of a range of artistic couples in the first half of the 20th century, this exhibition brings together work by painters, sculptors, photographers, architects, poets, musicians and dancers.

Charting how the concept of a ‘couple’ has evolved, along with society’s approach to marriage, family and gender, it showcases the way in which a variety of intimate relationships – traditional, famed, short-lived and fixational – have resulted in experimentation and, at times, subversion of the status quo.

Part of the Barbican’s 2018 season The Art of Change, Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde reveals the ways in which creative partnerships have impacted on artistic practice and social restraints. Featuring works by around 40 principal artist couples, the exhibition calls into question the prevailing perception of modern art as largely defined by solitary genius.

Works by couples including Lee Miller and Man Ray, Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, and Dora Maar and Pablo Picasso are displayed alongside correspondence and photographic documents that reveal intimate interactions. In this way, the exhibition ranges from the intensely personal, to broad shifts in public perception.

Venue information

Opening times

Art Gallery
Daily, 11am – 8pm (Thu & Fri until 9pm)

The Curve
Daily, 10am – 6pm (Thu & Fri until 9pm)

Closed 24-28 Dec and 1 Jan

"Art Fund" is the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund, a charity registered in England and Wales (209174) and Scotland (SC038331)