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Barbican announces reopening and new programme for the spring and summer 2021

The Barbican today announces an exciting programme of new live events and digital content for spring and summer. In line with the latest government guidance, the Barbican is preparing to reopen its Art Gallery, Cinemas, Shop and Cafes, and welcome back live audiences in the Hall, in the week of 17 May 2021; followed by the Conservatory in late May; and The Curve and The Pit on 17 June. The Barbican Theatre will make its much-anticipated return this summer with a new production of one of the greatest musicals of all time.

Highlights from the spring and summer programme include:  

  • Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty, the first major UK exhibition of the work of French artist Jean Dubuffet in over 50 years, will open at the Barbican Art Gallery on Monday 17 May and tickets will go on sale from tomorrow (Thursday 11 March).
  • Tickets go on sale from tomorrow (Thursday 11 March) for Claudia Andujar: The Yanomami Struggle, a major exhibition dedicated to the work and activism of Brazilian artist Claudia Andujar, in The Curve, The Pit and Barbican foyers, opening on Thursday 17 June.
  • Live music and audiences return to the Barbican over the spring and summer with a new Live from the Barbican concert series. This includes 15 livestreamed concerts in the Hall with a digital audience alongside a socially-distanced live audience when permitted. The line-up, announced today, includes Barbican Resident Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Sir Simon Rattle, Paul Weller with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Jules Buckley, Moses Boyd, Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason, the 12 Ensemble with Jonny Greenwood and Anna Meredith, George the Poet, and the world premiere of Errollyn Wallen’s new opera Dido’s Ghost.
  • Kathleen Marshall’s Tony Award-winning production of the musical Anything Goes comes to the Theatre this summer starring Megan Mullally, Robert Lindsay, Felicity Kendal and Gary Wilmot.
  • The Barbican’s co-presentation with the Bridge Theatre of Vox Motus’s highly acclaimed theatre installation Flight resumes at the Bridge from Monday 17 May for a limited three-week run, subject to government regulations at the time.
  • The Barbican’s cinemas, including newly refurbished Cinemas 2&3, will reopen from Monday 17 May with a programme of new releases, as well as the annual Chronic Youth 2021, and the curated film series Return to the City.
  • How We Live Now: Reimagining Spaces with the Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative, an ambitious installation, public programme and publication, will open on Monday 17 May as part of the Barbican’s Level G programme, exploring who are our buildings and shared spaces are designed for, and how they affect us.
  • Communities in Residence returns to the Barbican from April with a regular programme of small-scale and in-person creative workshops for local community organisations and charities.
  • Applications for Barbican Creative Learning’s second round of its Open Lab programme launches today, providing grants to commission a further four artists to produce new socially engaged work.
  • Barbican Box, the Barbican’s flagship schools programme, will be opening applications for secondary schools in Harlow and Manchester, exploring theatre-making and visual art with students and teachers from May to July 2021.
  • For children aged five and under, a new Squish Space online group will be offering daily play prompts and activities for parents/carers and their children to enjoy at home.
  • Barbican Conservatory, home to more than 1,500 species of tropical plants and trees, will reopen to the public for free on select days of the week from late May.
  • Available now in the online Barbican Shop is a new sustainable living collection, with a range of eco-friendly and ethically sourced products to help lead a more sustainable life.

Full programme information for the above and more is detailed below.

Sir Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director, Barbican said: ‘We’re delighted to finally welcome everyone back to the Barbican to experience the joy of culture and creativity again. When we reopened last year, 96% of our visitors felt safe in the Centre, and we look forward to creating the same level of welcome to ensure another safe return for our audiences, artists and staff.

'Our reopening programme for the spring and summer is packed with great concerts, inspiring exhibitions, thrilling theatre performances, and thought-provoking film screenings. We'll also continue running our innovative learning programmes and community work, designed to connect young people, children and local communities with their creativity and provide a supportive, nurturing environment for them to express themselves.

‘We have made great strides in recent times to provide a blended offer of live and digital programming. We’ll continue to develop this for the future to ensure everyone can enjoy our inspiring cross-arts programme while we gradually return to fuller audiences across our building.

‘None of this work would be possible without the continuing support of the City of London Corporation, our founder and principal funder, and the generosity of our individual, business, and trust and foundation supporters.’

The Barbican believes in creating space for people and ideas to connect through its international arts programme, community events and learning activity. To keep its programme accessible to everyone, and to keep investing in the artists it works with, the Barbican needs to raise more than 60% of its income through ticket sales, commercial activities and fundraising every year. Donations can be made here:

Visual Arts

Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty  
Mon 17 May – Sun 22 Aug 2021
, Barbican Art Gallery
Media View: details to follow soon

Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty is the first major UK exhibition of the work of French artist Jean Dubuffet (1901–1985) in over 50 years. One of the most provocative voices in postwar modern art, Dubuffet rebelled against conventional ideas of beauty, hoping to capture the poetry of everyday life in a gritty, more authentic way. Drawn from international public and private collections, Brutal Beauty brings together more than 150 works: from early portraits, lithographs and fantastical statues to enamel paintings, butterfly assemblages and giant colourful canvases.

Spanning four decades in the studio, Brutal Beauty highlights Dubuffet’s endless experimentation with tools and materials, as he blended paint with shards of glass, coal dust, pebbles, slithers of string and gravel. Shown alongside his work are two dedicated rooms from Dubuffet’s collection of Art Brut, acquired throughout his life – shedding light on artists such as Aloïse Corbaz, Fleury-Joseph Crépin, Gaston Duf., and Laure Pigeon, who profoundly inspired his approach to the making and understanding of art.

Significant works by Dubuffet in the exhibition include the Little Statues of Precarious Life, 1954–59, figures made out of natural sponge, wood charcoal, grapevine and lava stone; and the Texturologies from the late 1950s, inspired by the rich natural surroundings of Vence, Southern France, which pivot between our micro and macro worlds, their delicate speckles having a spellbinding effect. While Paris Circus, 1961, is a series of works drawn from the frenzy of street life bursting with consumerism and featuring a somersault of dense imagery.

Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty is sponsored by Sotheby’s with additional support from Waddington Custot.

Claudia Andujar: The Yanomami Struggle 
Thu 17 Jun – Sun 29 Aug 2021
, The Curve / The Pit / Barbican Foyers
Media View: Wed 16 Jun 2021

Barbican Art Gallery presents Claudia Andujar: The Yanomami Struggle – an exhibition dedicated to the work and activism of Brazilian artist Claudia Andujar. For over five decades starting in the 1970s, Andujar devoted her life to photographing and defending the Yanomami, one of Brazil’s largest indigenous peoples. At a time when Yanomami territory is threatened more than ever by illegal gold mining, and as Covid-19 continues to sweep the globe, this major exhibition is especially relevant in the context of the humanitarian and environmental crises exacerbated by the pandemic.

Claudia Andujar: The Yanomami Struggle is curated by Thyago Nogueira, Head of Contemporary Photography at the Instituto Moreira Salles in Brazil. Based on years of research into Andujar’s archive, the exhibition explores her extraordinary contribution to the art of photography as well as her major role as a human rights activist defending the Yanomami’s rights. Over 200 photographs, an audio-visual installation, a film and a series of drawings by the Yanomami are brought together in The Curve, The Pit and the Barbican’s foyers. The exhibition will reflect the dual nature of Andujar’s career, committed to both art and activism, as she used photography as a tool for political change.

Tickets for Claudia Andujar: The Yanomami Struggle go on sale to Barbican Members on Thursday 11 March and to the general public on Friday 12 March.


Barbican announces
line-up details for Live from the Barbican from April 2021

Live music returns to the Barbican over the spring and summer this year with a new edition of its successful concert series Live from the Barbican, including 15 livestreamed concerts featuring the Centre’s resident and associate orchestras and ensembles as well as a hand-picked line-up of artists. The concerts will be performed in the Barbican Hall between 10 April and 18 July 2021 with a live streaming audience online, alongside a socially distanced in-person audience when permitted. The eclectic mix of musicians across many different genres all reflect the wide spectrum of the Barbican’s distinct music offer.

Highlights include:

All concerts as part of Live from the Barbican in summer 2021 will be streamed live from the Barbican Hall on a pay-per-view basis, with live audiences in the Hall from Mon 17 May, if permitted by official government guidance. 

Tickets to access the livestreams or to re-watch within a 48 hour-window, are £12.50 and will be on sale from Wed 10 March 2021. In-person tickets for events taking place after 17 May 2021 will go on sale in April 2021. Please find information about how to book tickets here

Discounted tickets at £5 are available to 14 – 25-year-olds through
Young Barbican and over 1000 free stream passes are being offered to schools and community groups in London, Manchester, Harlow and Norfolk, through Barbican Creative Learning.

The Barbican’s resident orchestra the London Symphony Orchestra continues to present weekly digital concerts on a range of platforms. All information can be found here.

Theatre and Dance

Anything Goes
Summer 2021, Barbican Theatre

One of the all-time great musicals Anything Goes makes a welcome return to the London stage this summer, starring Emmy & SAG Award Winner Megan Mullally (Will & Grace) making her West End musical debut as Reno Sweeney, and Tony, Olivier & BAFTA Award-Winner Robert Lindsay as Moonface Martin. Evening Standard Theatre Award Winner Felicity Kendal (The Good Life) will make her West End musical debut starring as Evangeline Harcourt, alongside leading West End actor Gary Wilmot (Chicago / Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) as Elisha Whitney.

This joyous new production of Cole Porter & P.G. Wodehouse’s classic musical will be directed and choreographed by three-time Tony Award-Winner Kathleen Marshall. Marshall’s Broadway production of Anything Goes was a major smash hit and received huge critical acclaim. The revival was nominated for nine Tony Awards and 10 Drama Desk Awards, winning Best Musical Revival and Best Choreography at both ceremonies. Now Marshall, in her West End directing debut, will reinvent this glorious musical for London audiences this summer.

Tickets for Anything Goes are on sale now.

Vox Motus – Flight
Mon 17 May – Sun 6 Jun 2021, performance times TBC, Bridge Theatre

From a private booth, audiences are drawn into this tale of orphaned brothers and their desperate odyssey across Europe, the action unfolding in a ‘genuinely magical’ [The Stage] world of moving miniatures. 

With their small inheritance stitched into their clothes, young Aryan and Kabir set off on an epic journey by foot from Kabul to London. Braving bustling train stations, hazardous sea crossings, menacing strangers and threats of violence, their heart-wrenching story speaks of terror, hope and survival. Based on Caroline Brothers’ novel HinterlandFlight combines timely themes with engrossing images to honour the resilience of refugee children adrift in dangerous lands.

At the Bridge Theatre audiences are seated individually and given headphones for this intimate experience staged by Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison (magic and illusions designer, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child). Like a 3-D graphic novel brought to life, the revolving scenes contain detailed sets and figures, accompanied by binaural sound and narration.

Tickets for Flight go on sale in the spring. The on-sale date will be announced soon.

Diverse City – Mid Life: The Skin We’re In
Mon 22–Sun 28 Mar 2021
, online

The team behind OFFIE-nominated play Mid Life, the last show to be performed in The Pit before the country went into lockdown a year ago, presents Mid Life: The Skin We're In. This vital, uplifting short film is available to stream for free for one week.

Mid Life: The Skin We’re In is a poetic look at how to celebrate, survive and thrive in your own skin. It explores the expectations that are placed on women’s bodies and suggests how we can rise to a deeper appreciation of ourselves. The short film was created by Jacqui Beckford, Claire Hodgson and Karen Spicer, and directed by Lucy Richardson. The cinematography is by Monika Davies and the original music by Kandaka Moore.


Barbican Cinema will reopen on Monday 17 May, welcoming audiences back to enjoy the much-missed big screen experience. Highlights from the spring/summer programme include the annual Chronic Youth 2021, the Return to the City season and the best in new release titles.

The Barbican is also pleased to announce that Cinemas 2&3 will reopen, having recently undergone a refurbishment, with new seating and an improved layout in the foyer. Barbican Cinema 1’s foyer has also been redesigned, creating a contemporary space for audiences to enjoy.

Chronic Youth 2021

Barbican Cinema will present the sixth edition of the Chronic Youth, which is curated by the Barbican Young Film Programmers (aged 16-25). With one film programme a month – between April and May on Cinema On Demand and one screening in venue in June – this year’s cohort have chosen films that explore the themes of self-definition, community and chosen family, from filmmakers across the globe. 

From the gripping story of a dislocated Romanian family in Acasa, My Home (Dir Radu Ciorniciuc), to the heart-warming and rhythm-fuelled shorts programme, Chronic Youth offers moving stories of people uniting through a shared desire to choose their own path, and connect with the world around them. 

Return to the City

After a year when travel has been denied for most people, leaving bustling urban centres deserted, Return to the City – screening throughout June 2021 – visits destinations around the globe, showing unique perspectives of major world cities.

This season re-discovers Paris, Lima, Las Vegas and Kaili City, with a diversity of storytellers as our guide. Some celebrate the majesty and excitement of the metropolis, while others consider the hardships faced by marginalised communities within them.

Programme highlights include: Nationalité immigré (France 1976, Dir Sidney Sokhona), which explores the racism faced by immigrants in 1970s Paris; Lima Screams (Peru 2018, Dir Dana Bonilla), a modern day city symphony dedicated to Peru’s capital city; and Queen of Diamonds (USA 1991, Dir Nina Menkes), which shows the more mundane side of Las Vegas, away from the glitz and glamour, through the eyes of a casino croupier getting through yet another day’s work.

Tickets for Return to the City are available to book from Thursday 22 April.

From Monday 17 May, audiences will also be able to enjoy the best new release titles.

Barbican Cinema has been supported by the Culture Recovery Fund for Independent Cinemas in England which is administered by the BFI, as part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund supporting arts and cultural organisations in England affected by the impact of Covid-19. #HereForCulture.

Level G Programme

How We Live Now: Reimagining Spaces with Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative
Mon 17 May – Thu 23 Dec 2021, Level G & online

Through an ambitious installation, public programme and publication,
How We Live Now: Reimagining Spaces with the Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative invites the public to explore an important social question: who are our buildings and shared spaces designed for, and how do they affect us? After a sustained period of lockdown and increased time spent in domestic spaces, these questions feel more relevant than ever.

The jumping-off point for considering these questions is a previously unseen archive of work by the radical 1980s feminist architecture cooperative Matrix, who addressed the ways in which the design of the built environment excludes particular groups, particularly in relation to gender, race and disability.

The hybrid programme, co-curated with Matrix founding member Jos Boys, will consist of an installation on Level G of the Barbican Centre featuring rare films, drawings, photos and architectural models from the Matrix archive; as well as a series of online talks, workshops, film screenings and walking tours. The accompanying exhibition book, Revealing Objects, is an experimental publication that combines archival reproductions of Matrix materials with contemporary responses to the key themes of the project.

How We Live Now is made possible with Art Fund support.

Creative Learning

Young Visual Arts Group 2021 Online Exhibition
Available online from May 2021

In May 2021, the Barbican will launch a free online group exhibition featuring newly created works from 14 emerging visual artists between the age of 17-25 on Barbican Creative Learning’s Young Visual Arts Group programme.

Produced remotely and entirely online by the group and the Barbican, the exhibition will showcase a variety of artworks spanning media including painting, drawing, photography, film and performance. The exhibition will feature work from artists Gibril Adam, Fikayo Adebajo, Sally Barton, L U C I N E, J Frank, Ayodeji Akinlabi Fatimilehin Hayes, Nefeli Kentoni, Siavash Minoukadeh, Emariamhe Obemeata, Ioana Simion, Asako Ujita, Tegan Wilson, Zhilin Xu and Jiawen Zhao.

Barbican launches Open Lab call-out to commission four artists to produce new socially engaged work

Barbican Creative Learning’s Open Lab programme will open for a second round of applications from Wednesday 10 March.

The Barbican is supporting the work of eight early to mid-career artists in total. Four artists have been be selected from the first round of applications last year and are creating work between January and June 2021 and another four artists will be selected from this round of applications.

Open Lab supports artists to experiment in any artform with no expectation of delivering a final artistic product. It accepts proposals from artists who are at the beginning of a cross arts or participatory idea or question or would like to explore the creative process with new collaborators.

Interested applicants’ practice should be socially engaged. Work should explore how people’s mental, physical and social wellbeing is improved by participation in and enjoyment of the arts, be inclusive, rooted in community and respond to the uniquely challenging times we find ourselves in today.

Successful applicants will receive £2,000 to develop their idea, have access to bespoke guidance and advice by Barbican staff members and a selected mentor.  Applicants should document their process and will have the opportunity to showcase their work on the Barbican’s website and social channels.

Disabled people, those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds and people under 30 are under-represented in the arts sector, so the Barbican is particularly encouraging applications to Open Lab from people in these groups. More information about the programme and how to apply can be found here.

Barbican Box is coming to Harlow and Manchester in 2021

Barbican Creative Learning and Harlow Playhouse and HOME are excited to bring Barbican Box, the Barbican’s flagship schools programme, to schools in Harlow and the Greater Manchester area from May to July 2021. The programme is open to secondary schools, as well as Year 6 primary groups.

Now in its tenth year, Barbican Box ignites and supports creative arts practice in schools and colleges through a guided process of making new artistic work.

This year’s Box is designed and curated by Coney, award-winning creators of interactive experiences, and explores themes of games, adventures and play. Recognising the importance of supporting wellbeing at this time, the Box will encourage students and teachers to celebrate kindness, empathy and connection, through engagement with theatre and visual art.

Designed to be accessible to all schools, including specialist providers, the programme introduces young people to imaginative and adventurous approaches to the arts and enriches the school curriculum by connecting schools to professional arts programmes and venues.

The Barbican’s National Development Programme is supported by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Squish Space: Online Group

The Barbican has launched a new digital season of Squish Space, the Barbican’s multi-sensory adventure for children aged five and under. A series of play prompts will inspire creative activity and exploration of everyday objects by engaging with families in their own homes over the coming months. Designed by Squish Space creators India Harvey and Lisa Marie Bengtsson, new play prompts and activities will be shared via the new Barbican Families: Squish Space Activities Facebook Group. This Facebook group will bring together the families and carers digitally who usually get the chance to connect onsite.

Communities in Residence

Communities in Residence is a responsive programme that provides free space at the Barbican to local community partners including Accumulate, an ‘art school for the homeless’; Key Changes, a mental health recovery charity for musicians; and City of London Age UK which offers support and services to older people.

Communities in Residence offers a collaborative space for valuable face-to-face interaction and is helping to foster feelings of connection and creativity.

All three community groups will return to the Barbican from Easter this year with a regular programme of small-scale, socially distanced and in-person activities. These activities will be connected to the Barbican programme and involve creative workshops, film viewings and visits to the Barbican Art Gallery (once it reopens on Monday 17 May).

Barbican Conservatory

The Barbican Conservatory will reopen to the public on select days of the week from late May. A hidden oasis in the city, the Barbican Conservatory is home to more than 1,500 species of tropical plants and trees, as well as three indoor ponds for exotic fish and terrapins. Entry is free, but tickets must be booked in advance with available dates and times listed on the Barbican website.

Architecture Tours

Starting again on Monday 17 May, Barbican Architecture Tours are a 90-minute walking tour of the Barbican Centre and surrounding Brutalist estate led by an expert guide. The tour ventures through criss-crossing highwalks, leafy courts and sweeping crescents, and visits key points of architectural interest including the tranquil Lakeside Terrace, the striking form of the Sculpture Court and the trio of soaring residential towers. Tours will be available 7 days a week and will run at reduced capacity to allow for safe social distancing.

Barbican Business Events

From Monday 8 March, Barbican Business Events will start facilitating commercial filming and photoshoots, as well as essential business events up to 30 people, on a case by case basis in line with government guidance. Weddings up to 30 people, along with venue hire for larger groups of people, will resume no sooner than Monday 17 May.

Barbican Shop

The Barbican Shop will reopen its physical stores on Level G and at Barbican Art Gallery from Monday 17 May, featuring an exciting selection of design-led gifts. The Barbican Shop also continues to take orders through its online store at

New additions to the Barbican Shop include the exhibition book for Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty, now available as an exclusive pre-order for delivery from the 1 April. This fully illustrated 288 page book published by Prestel and designed by the Bon Ton features an introductory text written by the exhibition curator, Eleanor Nairne, alongside rich and insightful thematic essays by Kent Mitchell Minturn, Rachel E. Perry, Sarah Wilson, Sarah Lombardi, Sophie Berrebi and Camille Houzé.

Also now available is the Barbican Shop’s Sustainable Living collection, with a range of eco-friendly and ethically sourced products to help lead a more sustainable life, including water bottles, reusable snack boxes, flower and vegetable seeds, and fashion accessories made using sustainable methods and materials.

Barbican Kitchen, Cinema Cafe and Bar

From Monday 17 May, the Barbican Kitchen, Cinema Cafe and Bar will reopen to the public offering a selection of light snacks, cakes, treats and hot and cold drinks to eat in and take out. Detailed visitor information will be available on the Barbican’s website.