Modern Couples
Art Intimacy and the Avant-garde
Barbican Art Gallery, Barbican Centre
Wed 10 Oct 2018 – Sun 27 Jan 2019
Media View: Tue 9 Oct 2018, 10am–1pm

As the notion of a ‘couple’ evolves with society’s changing approach to marriage, partnerships, family, parenthood and gender, Barbican Art Gallery presents Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde: the first interdisciplinary exhibition to explore the creative output resulting from the exclusive or polyamorous relationships between artist couples in the first half of the 20th Century.

Including the work of painters, sculptors, photographers, architects, designers, poets, writers, musicians, dancers and performers, Modern Couples questions the history of modern art as one largely defined by solitary genius. The exhibition also reveals how creative individuals came together to variously transgress the constraints of their time, reshaping art, redefining gender stereotypes and forging new ways of living. The intimate relationship in all its various forms – obsessional, conventional, mythic, fleeting, life-long – is ultimately revealed to be a playground for experimentation, creation, and subversion of the status quo. 

Featuring around 40 principal artist couples, with exhibits drawn from public and private collections in Europe, North  America and Russia, Modern Couples offers visitors a rich exploration of artworks, to be seen alongside correspondence and photographic documentation, revealing both the couples’ intimate spheres and the changing behaviours and ideas of these modern age protagonists.The exhibition also highlights the work of legendary couples, such as Dora Maar and Pablo Picasso, Lee Miller and Man Ray, Varvara Stepanova and Alexander Rodchenko, Lucia Moholy and László Moholy-Nagy, Gabriele Münter and Wassily Kandinsky, Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Jean Arp, Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, Eileen Gray and Jean Badovici, Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, Vanessa Bell, Roger Fry and Duncan Grant, Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais; alongside less well known partnerships such as those between Emilie Flöge and Gustav Klimt, Romaine Brooks and Natalie Clifford-Barney, Lavinia Schulz and Walter Holdt, and Mary Reynolds and Marcel Duchamp, amongst others.

The exhibition is a partnership collaboration with Centre Pompidou-Metz, who initiated the exhibition; and is curated by Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican; Emma Lavigne, Director Centre Pompidou-Metz; Cloé Pitiot, Design Curator, Pompidou Paris and Elia Biezunski, Associate Curator, Centre Pompidou-Metz.

Notes to Editors

Press Information
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Lily Booth, Media Relations Officer, +44 207 382 6162, Bréifne Ó Conbhuí, Media Relations Assistant +44 207 382 7254,
Jean Tang, Media Relations Assistant +44 207 382 6138, 

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Barbican Art Gallery and The Curve
One of the leading art spaces in the UK, Barbican Art Gallery presents the best of international visual art with a dynamic mix of art, architecture, design, fashion and photography. From acclaimed architects to Turner prize-winning artists, the Gallery exhibits innovators of the 20th and 21st centuries: key players who have shaped developments and stimulated change. The Curve is dedicated to a vibrant programme of new commissions, created by leading international artists in direct response to this distinctive gallery space.

About the Barbican
A world-class arts and learning organisation, the Barbican pushes the boundaries of all major art forms including dance, film, music, theatre and visual arts. Its creative learning programme further underpins everything it does. Over 1.1 million people attend events annually, hundreds of artists and performers are featured, and more than 300 staff work onsite. The architecturally renowned centre opened in 1982 and comprises the Barbican Hall, the Barbican Theatre, The Pit, Cinemas One, Two and Three, Barbican Art Gallery, a second gallery The Curve, foyers and public spaces, a library, Lakeside Terrace, a glasshouse conservatory , conference facilities and three restaurants. The City of London Corporation is the founder and principal funder of the Barbican Centre.

The Barbican is home to Resident Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra ; Associate Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra ; Associate Ensembles the Academy of Ancient Music and Britten Sinfonia , Associate Producer Serious , and Artistic Partner Create . Our Artistic Associates include Boy Blue Entertainment , Cheek by Jowl , Deborah Warner, Drum Works and Michael Clark Company . International Associates are Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam , New York Philharmonic , Los Angeles Philharmonic , Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig and Jazz at Lincoln Center .

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