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Barbican announces 2020 programme: Inside Out

A black and white photograph, a person walking on a road with their hands in their pockets. Sunil Gupta's Christopher Street

The Barbican announces Inside Out, a year exploring the relationship between our inner lives and creativity.

Throughout 2020, Inside Out will showcase the work of artists who have found pioneering ways to articulate their innermost thoughts, feelings and desires, and how this can help us to better understand ourselves and empathise with each other’s experience of the world.

The programme will interrogate themes such as identity, self-expression and how we shape our private selves in a world in which we are more socially connected than ever. It will highlight courageous artists and individuals who have challenged society’s definition of them, including those that have found ways to express themselves during times of censorship.

Inside Out will take place throughout 2020 with arts and learning events, exhibitions, screenings, live performances and concerts across all art-forms, in all of the Barbican’s venues and public spaces.

Sir Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director, Barbican said: ‘Throughout the year, Inside Out will draw on ideas from the arts, learning, philosophy, politics and culture to present a thought-provoking programme that invites our audiences to delve deep into the minds of extraordinary artists who found revolutionary ways to share their individual experience of the world.’

Louise Jeffreys, Artistic Director, Barbican said: ‘In an increasingly frenetic world, when we’re under pressure to both reveal more and more of ourselves and to conform to societal expectations, Inside Out will create a space for us all to take a step back to consider who we really are and how we share this with others.’

A number of projects in the Inside Out season have been generously supported by Wellcome.

The Inside Out season includes work from artists who found, and continue to find, new ways to examine and communicate their inner lives. Highlights include:

-   Isadora Now: Viviana Durante Company presents an evening of performance inspired by Isadora Duncan, a timeless icon of modernism and feminism who reinvented dance by creating work that enabled women to express themselves through their bodies on their own terms.

-   Beethoven 250: A year-long exploration of one of the most iconic figures in Western classical music in his 250th birthday year; Beethoven was a composer driven by deafness to retreat into an interior world. For the first time, a composer described his inner life in both his music and in his writing, revealing his thoughts, feelings and experience, and his self-identification as a creative genius.

-   Jean Dubuffet: the first UK solo exhibition in 50 years of one of the most provocative artistic voices of the postwar avant-garde, whose radical material experiments sought to articulate the texture of everyday life.

-   Ivo van Hove directs: Death in Venice, a new theatrical adaptation, written by Ramsey Nasr, of the novella which externalised the obsession, desire and repression at the heart of the life of the author Thomas Mann, performed by Internationaal Theater Amsterdam; and a new production of Tennessee Williams’s most openly autobiographical drama, The Glass Menagerie, with the renowned Odéon–Théâtre de l’Europe, starring Isabelle Huppert.

 -   Inner States: A series of first-person films: pivotal films shot from a first-person perspective, which use cinema as a form of revelation of inner personal and political truths, including the work of Raed Andoni, Laurie Anderson and Chantal Akerman.

-   Two new contemporary music projects that show how landscape and nature shape our experience of the world: Damon Albarn’s new project inspired by the respite he gains from the landscapes of Iceland, and a new collaboration between composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Erland Cooper and the London Contemporary Orchestra, with support from author Amy Liptrot; both Erland and Amy hail from the Orkney Islands and their work is deeply connected to the personal refuge provided by the archipelago.

-  Evening in the Palace of Reason, part of the Bach: A Beautiful Mind weekender explores an encounter in 1747 between Frederick the Great of Prussia and J.S. Bach: their radically contrasting inner worlds, clash of sensibilities, their psychology and mindsets. This profoundly charged moment in the history of thought resulted in Bach’s extraordinary Musical Offering.

The programme also looks at ways art can be used to explore our identity and demonstrate our individuality in the societies we live in:

-   Masculinities: Liberation through Photography, a major group exhibition that explores the ways in which masculinity is experienced, performed, coded and socially constructed through photography and film from the 1960s to the present day, touching on themes of patriarchy, power, queer identity, race, sexuality, class, female perceptions of men, heteronormative stereotypes, and fatherhood, featuring work by 50 artists including Richard Avedon, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Isaac Julien, Annette Messager and Catherine Opie.

-  Rhiannon Faith returns to the Barbican with a new dance theatre show, DROWNTOWN which aims to talk about the way we choose to engage with society and our community through autobiographical stories of loneliness, forgiveness and change.

-  Films and performances that celebrate artists who continue to express themselves under extreme conditions, including Out in the Shadows - a film season featuring LGBTQ+ filmmakers who found ways to convey queer sexuality through times of cinematic censorship and oppression, and Dogs of Europe, a new production from Belarus Free Theatre, whose work has been banned in their home country.

-  Autism and Cinema: An Exploration of Neurodiversity, a film season looking at how neurodiverse people have been portrayed in film, including work by members of the autistic community. The programme considers how cinema can be used to reveal the autistic experience and ways of being on screen.

-  A new Curve commission by acclaimed Mumbai-based artist Shilpa Gupta, whose work explores physical and ideological boundaries and how as individuals we come to feel a sense of isolation or belonging.

Through the year the Barbican will present a series of projects and installations that invite audiences to delve deeper into their own inner worlds, including:

-   Retreat, a Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning initiative, which invites an artist to create a space on the Barbican’s Level G that engages visitors in a dialogue around the human need to retreat and reflect on their inner experience.

-  Work Hard, Play Hard a co commission with Lumen Arts Projects, which explores how our personal relationship with play changes as we grow up.

-    Soundhouse will invite audiences into an intimate listening cinema on Level G, using the power of creative audio and podcasting to portray our inner landscapes. 

 -  OpenFest returns in 2020 with a programme inviting audiences to Play and Pause in the heart of the city, connecting with their own creativity, at their own rhythm.

Full Programme Details


Masculinities: Liberation through Photography
Thu 20 Feb–Sun 17 May 2020, Barbican Art Gallery
Media View: Wed 19 Feb 2020, 10am–1pm

Lead sponsor: Calvin Klein
This exhibition was made possible with a Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Research Grant from Art Fund.

Barbican Art Gallery will stage Masculinities: Liberation through Photography, a major group exhibition that explores the ways in which masculinity is experienced, performed, coded and socially constructed as expressed and documented through photography and film from the 1960s to the present day. The exhibition brings together over 300 works by over 50 pioneering international artists, photographers and filmmakers such as Laurie Anderson, Richard Avedon, Rineke Dijkstra, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Peter Hujar, Isaac Julien, Annette Messager, and Catherine Opie alongside a lesser-known and younger generation of artists including Cassils, Sam Contis, George Dureau, Karen Knorr, Elle Pèrez, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Hank Willis Thomas, Karlheinz Weinberger and Marianne Wex among others.

With ideas around masculinity undergoing a global crisis and terms such as ‘toxic’ and ‘fragile’ masculinity filling endless column inches, the exhibition will chart the representation of masculinity in all its myriad forms, rife with contradiction and complexity. Touching on themes of patriarchy, power, queer identity, race, sexuality, class, female perceptions of men, heteronormative stereotypes, and fatherhood, the works in the exhibition present masculinity as a largely unfixed performative identity shaped by cultural, political and social forces, with photography and film central to the way in which masculinity is shaped and understood.

Jean Dubuffet
Wed 30 Sep 2020–Sun 17 Jan 2021, Barbican Art Gallery
Media View: Tue 29 Sep 2020, 10am–1pm

This major exhibition of the French artist Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) spans more than four decades in the studio and is the first in the UK in over 50 years – celebrating one of the most powerful and provocative voices in the postwar avant-garde. Drawing from international collections and featuring rarely exhibited pieces, this show will highlight Dubuffet’s radicalism as he experimented with materials and aimed to create what he described as ‘an art that is directly plugged into our current life, that immediately emanates from our real life and our real moods’.

Dubuffet was one of the first to be interested in ‘Art Brut’ – a phrase he coined, which literally translates as ‘raw art’. He was gifted a copy of Hans Prinzhorn’s influential Artistry of the Mentally Ill (1922) and began corresponding with untrained artists, but it was not until 1945 that he visited a number of psychiatric hospitals and after learning more, began to collect the work of patients. The exhibition will centre around a gallery dedicated to Dubuffet’s collection, demonstrating how its return in 1962 from a ten year period of loan to the US contributed to a major shift in his practice. Continuing with significant bodies of work including the ‘Hourloupe’ cycle and ‘Coucou Bazar’, the exhibition champions Dubuffet’s spirit, which has made him such an important influence for artists working since.

Shilpa Gupta
Autumn 2020, The Curve

A site-specific installation in The Curve from the acclaimed Mumbai-based artist for her first solo show in a London institution. Shilpa Gupta’s practice poetically explores physical and ideological boundaries and how, as individuals, we come to feel a sense of isolation or belonging. 

Solo exhibitions of Gupta’s work have been held at the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, Arnofini in Bristol, OK Centrum in Linz and Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Arnhem; Gupta has also participated in biennales in Berlin, Kochi, Lyon, Gwangju, Havana, Yokohama and Liverpool. Her work has been presented in displays at the MoMA, New York; Tate Modern, London; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the New Museum, New York; and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebaek.


Alternate Realities
Mon 13–Sun 19 Jan 2020, Cinemas 2&3 and Cinema Café, Level G

Sheffield Doc/Fest’s pioneering digital art strand will return to the Barbican, featuring two works from the festival’s Alternate Realities exhibition of interactive and immersive non-fiction.

In the interactive installation Echo, by Georgie Pinn, audiences step into the shoes of another, through a virtual mirror, select a shared story and discover layers of themselves echoed back in a deeply personal exploration of human experience, identity and empathy through an intense and visually unique experience. For this presentation at the Barbican, Echo will feature new, intimate stories.

Alongside Pinn's work, the Barbican will also present Rob Eagle’s augmented reality installation Through the Wardrobe, playfully inviting visitors into a wardrobe where the possibilities of gender are endless.

These two installations in Cinemas 2&3 foyers, as part of the Level G programme, are accompanied by a film programme and events in the adjacent screens, including screenings of Agostino Ferrente’s Selfie (France/Italy 2019) and Enrico Masi’s Shelter - Farewell to Eden (France/Italy 2019), two powerful films that explore identity and depict intensely personal experiences in new and innovative ways.

Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests – Reel #10 (U*) with a new soundtrack created and performed by Leif
Thu 27 Feb 2020, Cinema 1

Barbican Cinema, as part of its regular Silent Film & Live Music series, presents a selection of Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, the series of short, silent black-and-white film portraits made by Warhol at the Factory between1964-66. Reel #10, which includes Lou Reed, Edie Sedgwick, poet John Ashbery and filmmakers Jonas Mekas and Paul Morrissey will be accompanied by a new soundtrack, created and performed by Leif

The Screen Tests were conceptualised as cinematic versions of mug shots, ID photos or photo booth photos. The sitters were filmed in a small space against the wall where a tripod-mounted 16mm Bolex camera, lights and a chair had been set up. They were asked to sit for three minutes – much longer than the exposure time of a photo. The sitters’ responses to this ‘ordeal’, and their decisions about how to ‘perform’ themselves for the camera, make these films hugely revealing, as well as riveting viewing. 

The people who sat for the Screen Tests – poets, artists, writers, filmmakers, musicians, dancers, models, celebrities and hangers-on – were part of the New York downtown arts scene during a watershed period. Collectively then, the Screen Tests can be read as a group portrait of this scene, as well as an oblique portrait of Warhol himself, delineating his network of connections and associations, his range of interests.

Leif is a UK-based DJ and producer, author of over 20 EPs and three acclaimed albums, most recently appearing on labels such as Whities, Livity Sound and Idle Hands. With Joe Ellis, he also runs the label UntilMyHeartStops. His music draws on myriad elements from the spaciousness of dub to the rhythmic flair of broken beat and garage, polyrhythmic melodic patterns passed down from the pioneering minimal composers, ambient atmospherics and the more forthright structures and propulsion of house and techno. As a DJ, Leif performs worldwide, with repeat appearances at institutions such as Panorama Bar, De School, Concrete, Fabric and many more. This inaugural solo live performance will see Leif explore the more ambient / experimental side of his sound, expanding on musical themes hinted at in his latest album, 2019’s Loom Dream (Whities).

London International Animation Festival: The Inner Life
Feb–Dec 2020

Artists and filmmakers express a range of inner lives, complex emotions and personal experiences in this curated selection of animations, presented in a four-part series throughout 2020, curated by the London International Animation Festival (LIAF).

In the first LIAF event, Inside the Mind, we rediscover some of the most celebrated and talked about films from recent festival editions that explore the concept of an ‘inner life’.

London International Animation Festival: Inside the Mind
Wed 19 Feb 2020, Cinema 2

Featuring work from the UK, Ireland, Estonia and the USA, Inside the Mind shows how artists use animation to engage with first person narratives and to express the otherwise inexpressible.

Autism and Cinema: An Exploration of Neurodiversity
Thu 2–Wed 29 Apr 2020

This season is presented in collaboration with the Centre for Film and Ethics at Queen Mary University of London as part of a research project supported by Wellcome. It debates new ideas arising from the relationship between autism and cinema.

Bringing together a diverse selection of films, ranging from documentary to animation, and genre-twisting fiction to experimental filmmaking from within the autistic community, this programme asks how the language of cinema can be challenged and changed by autistic perspectives.

Typically, cinema has depicted characters with autism from the outside, looking in with fascination at a high-functioning or magical character who throws out of joint the ‘neurotypical’ lives of those around them. Medical films similarly treated the behaviour of autistic individuals as eccentric and obscure, heralding a wave of anti-psychiatry and activism.

A cinema reflective of autism and opening onto the experience of neurodiversity is rare. Yet it has much to offer our understanding of inner and outer life, ushering in new sensory and relational ways of being in the world.

The film programme will include: Temple Grandin (dir Mick Jackson, US 2010); Le Moindre geste (The Slightest Gesture) (dirs Jean-Pierre Daniel, Fernand Deligny, Josée Manenti, France 1971), Mulholland Drive (dir David Lynch 147 min, US 2001) Jigsaw (dir Robina Rose, UK 1980) and Life, Animated (dir Roger Ross Williams, US 2016).

The season opens on World Autism Awareness Day; all screenings are relaxed.

Inner States – A series of first-person films
June 2020

Inner States, curated by the Barbican Cinema and film scholar, Professor Alisa Lebow, is a programme dedicated to first-person films that harness the medium to express an interiority rarely achieved on film.

Every film in this series – which will include Fix Me (dir Raed Andoni, Palestine (State of), France, Switerland 2009); Heart of a Dog (dir Laurie Anderson, US 2015); No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman, Belgium/France 2015) offer, in some way, a journey to the inner sanctum of the self: be it the experience of loss, loneliness, madness, or just the simplicity of keen observation from a unique vantage point. At a time when social norms are rapidly changing and the boundaries between private and public are less and less clear, they offer a profound insight into a cinematic account of the self and its relation to others and to the world.

‘Subjectivity finds its filmic expression, not surprisingly, in very personal ways, yet it is nonetheless shaped by and in relation to collective expressions of identity that can transform the cinema of 'me' into the cinema of 'we'.’ Alisa Lebow

Co-curated with Alisa Lebow, Professor of Screen Media, University of Sussex.
Supported by Sussex Docs, School of Media, Film and Music, University of Sussex.

Out in the Shadows: Queer expression in times of cinema censorship
July 2020

Out in the Shadows: Queer expression in times of cinema censorship will look at how LGBTQ+ filmmakers have expressed queer sexuality in times of repression and censorship.

Some of the greatest films of all time have been made by LGBTQ+ directors, although many were working at times of history when identifying as queer was taboo, and even a criminal offence.

Despite creating films which featured no explicitly queer content, which would have led to their films being banned or heavily censored, a number of LGBTQ+ filmmakers created work that managed to express their sexuality, through coded storytelling, symbolism, aesthetic and inventive technique.

The programme will include films from the US, the UK, the Soviet Union and the Middle East, including a screening of Lebanese filmmaker Mazen Khaled’s remarkable Martyr (Lebanon, 2017), in which a fateful trip to a beach provokes complex emotions in a group of young men.

These filmmakers show that great queer art can flourish in the darkest of times, out in the shadows.


Tickets go on sale to Barbican Members Plus on Friday 25 October 2019; Barbican Members on Monday 28 October 2019 and to the general public on Friday 1 November 2019.

Viviana Durante Company – Isadora Now
World Premiere

Fri 21–Sat 29 Feb 2020, Barbican Theatre
Press night: Tue 25 Feb 2020, 7.45pm

A remarkable evening of performance paying tribute to the American dancer Isadora Duncan, a timeless feminist icon who made work that enabled women to express themselves physically on their own terms.

To open, a rare opportunity to see Duncan’s own choreography. Dance of the Furies was created in 1905 and exemplifies daring, courage and ambition – qualities that were widely disapproved of in female dancers at the time. Next the evocative Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan by Frederick Ashton, performed here by the legendary ballerina Viviana Durante in her first solo appearance for a decade. And to close, a new and fearless group piece by choreographer Joy Alpuerto Ritter set to specially composed live music by Lih Qun Wong.

With an all-female ensemble, Durante’s show celebrates one of Duncan’s biggest legacies – a freedom of movement and spirit that has inspired artists and thinkers everywhere – while introducing original dance profoundly influenced by that same revolution today.

The dancers are Begoña Cao, Viviana Durante, Nikita Goile, Sharia Johnson, Charmene Pang and Serena Zaccagnini.

New work by Joy Alpuerto Ritter co-commissioned by the Barbican.

Internationaal Theater Amsterdam – Death in Venice
UK Premiere

Thu 16–Sun 19 Apr 2020, Barbican Theatre
Press night: Thu 16 Apr 2020, 7.45pm

An intense infatuation fuels the tension between social expectations and personal desire in a show that deftly combines theatre and music, directed by Ivo van Hove.

Celebrated author Thomas Mann is in crisis. He is struggling with writer’s block and a forbidden attraction to a young boy. Secluded in his workshop, he creates a fictional counterpoint of himself: Von Aschenbach, the man he dares not be in real life. A classical score played live by Britten Sinfonia supports the ensuing whirl of emotions portrayed onstage as he sends his alter ego to Venice.

Adapted by former Dutch poet laureate Ramsey Nasr, who performs the role of Aschenbach, Death in Venice is based both on Mann’s intimate novella and the author’s own life. Highlighting the inner struggle of an artist who channels his experiences into his literature, the drama also introduces the viewpoint of Mann’s wife. New music by American composer Nico Muhly features alongside Strauss and Schoenberg.

Death in Venice is performed in Dutch with English surtitles.

Belarus Free Theatre – Dogs of Europe
World Premiere
Wed 13–Sat 16 May 2020, Barbican Theatre
Press night: Thu14 May 2020, 7.45pm

From one of the world’s bravest theatre companies comes a visceral, psychological drama set in the near future, depicting a dystopian super-state in which individual rights have given way to control.

In 2049 a murder investigation sets a man on a quest, his search bringing him to former Belarus and Russia, now a single European territory ruled by an all-seeing secret service. But his journey becomes less about the origins of this reactionary regime, more a revelation about his own role in its creation. Based on the novel published in 2017, by contemporary Belarusian author Alhierd BacharevicDogs of Europe is both an epic fantasy and a political thriller about the dangers of looking away when authoritarianism takes root.

Exiled from their native country, the co-founders of Belarus Free Theatre are political refugees who make underground work that plays to courageous audiences in secret locations across Minsk. Everyone involved is under risk of intimidation, persecution and even arrest. Rehearsing from an adopted base in London and in Belarus via Skype, the company is known for its physical theatrical style and for its human rights campaigns. Having lived in democracies and a dictatorship, its staging of Dogs of Europe is especially prescient.

Dogs of Europe is performed in Belarusian with English surtitles.

Co-commissioned by the Barbican.

Odéon–Théâtre de l'Europe – The Glass Menagerie
UK Premiere
Fri 5–Thu 11 Jun 2020, Barbican Theatre
Press night: Fri 5 Jun 2020, 7.45pm

Stage and screen star Isabelle Huppert plays Amanda in Tennessee Williams’s bewitching masterpiece about loneliness, lost dreams and illusions, which is directed by Ivo van Hove.

Well-bred but having fallen on hard times, Amanda is locked in a life she never imagined with her two adult children. Aspiring poet Tom works in a factory as the main provider, slipping away to the movies whenever he can to escape his mother’s oppressive nostalgia. Laura, a fragile, self-conscious soul never leaves home, contenting herself with a collection of tiny glass animals. The arrival of a ‘gentleman caller’ one evening holds the promise of so much more.

Intense and elusive, The Glass Menagerie was the first hit for Williams on Broadway in 1945 and his most openly autobiographical drama. For this new show, Van Hove collaborates with the renowned Odéon–Théâtre de l’Europe on the classic memory play, releasing ghosts of the past to roam freely and speak for themselves.

The Glass Menagerie is performed in French with English surtitles.

Co-produced by the Barbican.

Split Britches – Last Gasp
European Premiere
Tue 9–Sat 13 Jun 2020, The Pit
Press night: Tue 9 Jun 2020, 7.45pm

Equipped with a bulletproof vest, some know-how and a touch of irony, Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver use spoken word and movement as a call and response to urgent global predicaments.

Two icons of lesbian-feminist theatre: solo yet somehow interdependent. Speaking from a microphone of her own narcissistic tendencies, fragile identities and privilege, Shaw’s poetic musings are interspersed with Weaver’s micro dance essays in which she wryly upends ‘how to’ mania. With one reflecting the other, more than a hint of Narcissus and Echo begins to emerge onstage.

Last Gasp brings prickly conversations literally to the table in episodes entitled ‘The Trump in Me’, ‘How to Survive a Loss’ and ‘How to Have the Last Word’. With cultural references ranging from surrealist painter Dorothea Tanning to singer Johnnie Ray, the legendary performance duo eases a little tension while hitting upon survival strategies for a world collapsing around them.

Rhiannon Faith – DROWNTOWN 
Tue 30 Jun–Sat 4 Jul 2020, The Pit
Press night: Tue 30 Jun 2020, 7.45pm

Gritty dance theatre that casts a light on people suffering from social isolation, DROWNTOWN holds up a mirror to community breakdown with tenderness and honesty.

Six people, weighed down by individual darkness, come to a coastal land. There is no lifeguard. Yearning to make connections and to find strength, they search for guidance. The absence of support sends them into a spiral as they struggle with ideas of shame and hope, unravelling before our eyes. Highly physical, interspersed with autobiographical testimonials and text, this timely performance gives voice to the vulnerable and unheard.

The devisors/performers are: Lewis Bramble, Cherie Coleman, Shelley Eva Haden, Thomas Heyes, Donald Hutera and Maddy Morgan.

Choreographer Rhiannon Faith makes socially conscious work that raises awareness of hard-to-navigate issues and which lobbies for change. Engaging here with the symptoms and problems encountered by marginalised groups, she asks how we can champion authentic belonging for every person and save them from drowning. Faith presented the acclaimed Smack That (a conversation) at the Barbican in 2018.


Beethoven 250
Throughout 2020

Throughout 2020 the Barbican celebrates composer Ludwig van Beethoven, one of the most iconic figures in Western classical music, in his 250th birthday year, and shines a light on different aspects of this complex composer.

Beethoven was a composer driven by deafness to retreat into an interior world that inspired his late masterpieces. For the first time, a composer described his inner life in both his music and in his writing, revealing his thoughts, feelings and experience, and his self-identification as a creative genius. Beethoven was a major figure in the construction of the quintessential ‘Romantic Artist’, whose inner world is at odds with that of ordinary mortals.

In his own lifetime, Beethoven was a radical: a champion of individual expression in an age of violent social change. Today, ringtones bleep Für Elise, protesters in Parliament Square sing the Ode to Joy. Beethoven is omnipresent. The Barbican’s Beethoven 250 series features the complete symphony cycle twice: once with the period-instruments of Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique; and again, over a single weekend, with five of the UK’s top orchestras making rare London appearances under their own chief conductors: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Karabits; City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Gražinytė-Tyla; Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Petrenko; Royal Northern Sinfonia/Vogt; and Hallé Orchestra/Elder.

Sir Simon Rattle and Barbican Resident Orchestra the London Symphony Orchestra pit Beethoven against Alban Berg – two very different kinds of radicalism in a powerful dialogue, including Beethoven’s rarely heard masterpiece Christ on the Mount of Olives. The series across the year features some of the greatest musicians of our time, such as Evgeny Kissin playing the Appassionata, Anne-Sophie Mutter in the violin sonatas, or Sir András Schiff in the piano concertos. Barbican Associate Ensemble The Academy of Ancient Music plays the complete Egmont music and Barbican Associate Orchestra the BBC Symphony Orchestra performs the Missa Solemnis – prompting the question whether the music that brings us closest to the man himself has a habit of getting squeezed out of the concert hall

Beethoven 250: Beethoven Weekender
Sat 1–Sun 2 Feb 2020

New and existing audiences will have the chance to explore the great composer in a fresh and informal way, through chamber music concerts, talks, films, family events and free events. An exhibition from Beethoven’s birth place, Beethoven-Haus Bonn, will include objects that give audiences a more intimate look at the composer, such as his ear trumpet, sketch books, an original print by Andy Warhol, and Beethoven’s own violin, performed in concert. The Weekender also features a new response to Beethoven’s music: s t a r g a z e, a network of multi-talented and classically-trained European musicians presents Beethoven NEIN! with Matthew Herbert.

Sponsored by DHL.

Bach: A Beautiful Mind
Sat 18–Sun 19 Jan 2020, Milton Court Concert Hall

Bach: A Beautiful Mind is a weekend that explores different aspects of the genius and unbounded artistic personality of Johann Sebastian Bach through music and talks.

Some of the liveliest musical minds of our time will engage with the composer, helping audiences to delve into Bach's inner life over three concerts.

Bach: A Beautiful Mind:  Evening in the Palace of Reason: The Musical Offering
Sat 18 Jan 2020, Milton Court Concert Hall

Harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani and author James Gaines explore Bach’s genius and the astonishing story of Frederick the Great and The Musical Offering. In 1747 an encounter took place of profound symbolic significance in the history of artistic thought. Frederick the Great of Prussia was 35 years old, and the model of an enlightenment monarch – philosopher, atheist, lover of the arts and master military strategist. The ageing J. S. Bach was the provincial child of an older, darker Germany. These two radically contrasting personalities were united only by a love of music, but even in that their tastes represented opposing aesthetics of old and new.  According to the story, Frederick challenged Bach to an unwinnable musical duel, giving him a fiendishly complex theme and asking him to use it as a basis for an impromptu three-part fugue. As Bach managed to accomplish the task, the king asked him for a six-part fugue on the same theme. The result of this was the extraordinary Musical Offering. The evening is curated by Mahan Esfahani, based on the book by James R. Gaines. It explores the encounter between these two figures, digging deep into their radically contrasting inner worlds, their psychology, their mindsets, and this clash of sensibilities that was a profoundly charged moment in the history of thought.

Bach: A Beautiful Mind:  The Art of Fugue: Bach The Craftsman
Sun 19 Jan 2020, Milton Court Concert Hall

Audiences are introduced to Bach the Craftsman, as Accademia Bizantina perform one of his greatest masterpieces, The Art of Fugue, an unparalleled feat of imagination, intelligence and sheer joy in the act of creation.

Bach: A Beautiful Mind: Solo Cantatas: Bach and the Divine
Sun 19 Jan 2020, Milton Court Concert Hall

Bach as a devout Christian is explored in the third concert, as the Academy of Ancient Music and baritone Benjamin Appl present Bach’s transcendental and timeless vocal writing in a selection of sacred solo cantatas.

Damon Albarn: The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows
Tue 26 May 2020, Barbican Hall

Singer, songwriter and composer Damon Albarn’s new project The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows, which is inspired by the landscapes of Iceland, will receive its UK premiere at the Barbican in May next year. The title is taken from a John Clare poem entitled Love and Memory.

Damon Albarn will perform this new, very personal, piece with an ensemble and specially commissioned visuals. What can be more fascinating than the signs of the passage of time and the fragility of nature? Damon Albarn is a singer, songwriter, composer and producer, and founder member of Blur, Gorillaz and The Good, The Bad & The Queen.

Produced by the Barbican.

Erland Cooper – An Orkney Triptych
with the London Contemporary Orchestra

Sat 13 Jun 2020, Barbican Hall

Hailing from the archipelago of Orkney in Scotland, composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Erland Cooper explores the natural world of birds, the sea and landscape, manifesting in an immersive collection of music, words and imagery. Originally part of The Magnetic North and Erland & The Carnival, Cooper returns to the Barbican in June 2020 after his sell-out solo debut in Spring 2019. He will be joined by the London Contemporary Orchestra for a transportative journey across a trilogy of albums inspired by Cooper’s childhood home of Orkney, its air, sea, land, community and native dialect. The evening will combine his debut solo record Solan Goose (2018) – an ode to escapism, written to ease anxieties, amplified in a busy city, featuring piano, strings, electronics and wild birdcalls – and the award-nominated Sule Skerry (2019), inspired by Orkney seascapes. The concert will also preview the final record in this series, which looks at the islands’ land community, myth and mythology (to be released in 2020).

The evening will also feature a spoken word contribution from award-winning author Amy Liptrot. Like Cooper, Liptrot originates from Orkney and wrote her acclaimed debut memoir based on her experiences of needing to leave the difficulties and alcoholism of her London life and finding peace and refuge in her childhood surroundings. Her book, The Outrun, is a Sunday Times top ten bestseller and winner of the 2016 Wainwright prize. 

An Anatomy of Melancholy
Mon 7–Sat 12 Sep 2020, The Pit

An Anatomy of Melancholy is a portrait of a man engaged in a forensic examination of his own sadness. Drawing on the work of Robert Burton (Anatomy of Melancholy), Sigmund Freud (Mourning and Melancholia), as well as Darian Leader (The New Black) and other contemporary psychoanalysts, it takes inspiration from the notion of art as a consolatory tonic. Countertenor Iestyn Davies, lutenist Thomas Dunford and director Netia Jones present this staged performance with live and immersive video projection, featuring some of the most exquisite and heart-rending music ever composed: the songs of melancholy by English Renaissance composer John Dowland. The performance examines humanity’s relationship with melancholy – both the emotional and the scientific. Performed on stage as protagonist and commentator, the evening will reflect on ideas about mourning and melancholia, scientific and analytic responses to loss and melancholy, its botanical and pharmaceutical remedies, the emotional meeting point between intense beauty and overwhelming sadness, and the recurring idea of the powerful consolation that art can provide. 


Work Hard, Play Hard
Thu 27 Feb–Sun 31 May 2020, Level G

In a third co-commission with Lumen Art Projects, an artist will respond to the provocation: work hard, play hard. Play is central to the development of children, but as we grow older, we are often conditioned to think of play as trivial and encouraged to direct our focus elsewhere. How does this personal relationship with play change with age? Does it become less significant in living a balanced life and, if so, why? What are the distinctions between work and play today? Have the boundaries of work, play and leisure become blurred? Following installations by Rachel Ara and Nye Thompson in 2018, the Barbican and Lumen Art Projects will co-commission an artist to explore these questions as part of Inside Out. 

Spring 2020, Level G

Returning to Level G, Soundhouse invites audiences into an intimate listening space to encounter a programme of playful, provocative and surprising audio work. Building on their pilot in Autumn 2018, Nina Garthwaite (In the Dark, UCL) and Eleanor McDowall (Falling Tree Productions) will curate a series of themed mini-seasons in Soundhouse, a temporary venue constructed within the Barbican's public spaces. One of these seasons, Inner Worlds, will reveal how sound manifests within us and portrays our inner landscapes and Time Travel will demonstrate audio’s ability to condense and expand time and to have multiple times co-exist in a single space. The installation will be accompanied by a series of experimental listening events.

Can we talk about Power?
Spring 2020

A conversation about our relationship with power

This symposium will explore the impact of power on our brains and behaviour. It forms part of an ongoing research project by Suzanne Alleyne, ‘The Neurology of Power’. With a particular focus on the cultural and creative industries, this event will look at how power operates from neurological and sociological perspectives. How do our preconceptions of 'success' and 'power' affect our mindsets? What is happening in our brains when we acquire or lose power? How might a conversation about this subject enable participants to build a broader leadership landscape and acquire greater agency to affect change? 

New Suns: A Feminist Literary Festival
Sat 31 Oct 2020
, Level G, Auditoriums & Cinema

An annual bookfair and day of talks, workshops and film exploring contemporary feminism. The day brings acclaimed writers and artists together with emerging talent to create a range of unique conversations and events for audiences. 

This third edition of New Suns will be held on Halloween, with a focus on feminist conveyance of interior worlds, touching on mysticism, altered states and contemporary gothic. The bookfair (featuring major and independent publishers), signings and selected events will be free to attend. 

New Suns was conceived by Sarah Shin and is programmed in partnership with the Barbican.


Connecting Conversations
Feb 2020, with new
Community Collaborator – Headway East London

Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning announce a long-term collaborative partnership with Headway East London, a local charity supporting people affected by brain injury.

As part of this collaboration, the Barbican will host Connecting Conversations – an event bringing together practitioners from across the arts, health and wellbeing sectors to explore the provocation ‘making art is an act of empathy’.

Over the course of the year the teams at Headway East London and Creative Learning will exchange best-practice, develop new models of working and create new events for the charity’s members and the wider public, setting the tone for a three-year collaborative relationship.

The partnership follows a series of pilots, including co-programming a private community view for the 2018 Barbican Art Gallery exhibition Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde, and creating a poetry anthology in response to Daria Martin’s Curve Gallery exhibition Tonight the World in 2019. 

Summer 2020

In Summer 2020 Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning will undertake an artist residency and installation that explores the concept of ‘retreat’, creating a space on Level G that engages visitors in a dialogue around the human need to retreat and reflect on the inner experience. Through this collaborative, process-driven residency the conversation and aesthetics in the space will evolve as the artist works with visitors to explore the notion of retreat and incorporate these discussions into their work.

This space will be open to the public as part of the Level G programme, alongside a series of facilitated workshops for schools, young people and community partners. The artist will be selected through an open call in January 2020. The residency will take place over Summer 2020, linking with a wider programme of events across Culture Mile.

Squish Space
Spring 2020, Level G

Squish Space is a multi-sensory adventure for children under five and their parents/carers to play together.

In Spring 2020, a new Squish Space season will explore the language of play and how play can be used as a way to express our inner lives from a very young age. Squish Space creators India Harvey and Lisa Marie Bengtsson explore communication, interaction and exchange that takes place through play among children and between children and adults. This will include a series of lab days that bring under-fives into the conversation to help play, experiment and co-design the programme.

Since opening in Autumn 2018, Squish Space has hosted three distinct seasons of play, that have explored the themes of movement, sound and light, interaction and exchange. It has welcomed thousands of visitors and established itself as a core space for families and children in the heart of the Barbican’s Level G.

Squish Space is produced by India Harvey and Lisa Marie Bengtsson in collaboration with Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning.

Summer 2020

OpenFest returns in 2020, welcoming everyone to explore the Barbican and its surrounding streets and venues. A two-day festival weekend, OpenFest will include everything from music and dance performances, to workshops, markets, tours and talks in and around the iconic arts and learning centre. This year’s programme will encourage audiences to find new ways to Play and Pause in the heart of the city, opening up, transforming and reimagining indoor and outdoor spaces across Culture Mile, including Barbican, Museum of London and Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s Milton Court as well as the thoroughfares, gardens and hidden spaces that connect them. Activities, performances and installations in each space will encourage audiences to connect with their own creativity, at their own rhythm, choosing when, where and how they want to play or pause.  Other OpenFest highlights include Family Film Club, open rehearsals and live performances across the building.

Annual Review
The Barbican Annual Review is published today. To download a copy, please visit:

Inside Out
Wunderman Thompson Intelligence supported the Barbican's development of Inside Out with research and social trends analysis