Press room

Barbican Art Gallery 2019 – 2020 Exhibition Programme

Masculinities: Liberation through Photography
20 February – 17 May 2020, Barbican Art Gallery
Media View: Wednesday 19 February 2020, 10am – 1pm

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.

Masculinities: Liberation through Photography is part of Inside Out, the Barbican's year-long programme exploring the relationship between our inner lives and creativity.

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Toyin Ojih Odutola: A Countervailing Theory
26 March – 26 July 2020, The Curve
Media View: Wednesday 25 March 2020, 10am – 1pm
Free Admission

Opening Spring 2020, Barbican Art Gallery presents the first-ever UK commission by Nigerian artist Toyin Ojih Odutola, a site-specific installation for The Curve. An epic cycle of new work unfurls across the 90-metre long gallery, exploring an imagined ancient myth conceived by the artist. 

Working exclusively with drawing materials, including pencil, pastel, ballpoint pen and charcoal, Ojih Odutola’s works often take the form of monumental portraits, which retain a remarkable intimacy despite their scale. She approaches the process of drawing as an investigative practice, through which to explore an intense engagement with mark-making and its potential for meaning. Ojih Odutola recognises that the pen is ‘a writing tool first’, playing with the idea that drawing can be a form of storytelling. She proposes speculative fictions through her practice, inviting the viewer to enter her vision of an uncannily familiar, yet fantastical world. Working akin to an author or poet, she often spends months creating extensive imaginary narratives, which play out through a series of works to suggest a structure of episodes or chapters. Drawing on an eclectic range of references, from ancient history to popular culture to contemporary politics, Ojih Odutola encourages the viewer to piece together the fragments of the stories that she presents.

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Jean Dubuffet
30 September 2020 – 17 January 2021, Barbican Art Gallery
Media View: Tuesday 29 September 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.

Jean Dubuffet is part of Inside Out, the Barbican's year-long programme exploring the relationship between our inner lives and creativity.
For information and images please visit: 

Shilpa Gupta
9 September 2020 - 14 February 2021, The Cuve
Media View: Tuesday 8 September, 10am – 1pm
Free Admission

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.

Shilpa Gupta’s installation is part of Inside Out, the Barbican's year-long programme exploring the relationship between our inner lives and creativity.
For information and images please visit: 



Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art
Until 19 January 2020, Barbican Art Gallery

Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art explores the social and artistic role of cabarets, cafés and clubs around the world. Spanning the 1880s to the 1960s, the exhibition presents a dynamic and multi-faceted history of artistic production. The first major show staged on this theme, it features both famed and little-known sites of the avant-garde – these creative spaces were incubators of radical thinking, where artists could exchange provocative ideas and create new forms of artistic expression. Into the Night offers an alternative history of modern art that highlights the spirit of experimentation and collaboration between artists, performers, designers, musicians and writers such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Loïe Fuller, Josef Hoffmann, Giacomo Balla, Theo van Doesburg and Sophie Taeuber-Arp, as well as Josephine Baker, Jeanne Mammen, Aaron Douglas, Jacob Lawrence, Ramón Alva de la Canal and Ibrahim El-Salahi.

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Trevor Paglen: From ‘Apple’ to ‘Anomaly’
(Pictures and Labels) Selections from the ImageNet dataset for object recognition
Until 16 February 2020, The Curve
Free admission

Barbican Art Gallery has commissioned the artist Trevor Paglen to create a new work for The Curve. Paglen’s practice spans image-making, sculpture, investigative journalism, writing and engineering. Among his primary concerns are learning to see the historical moment we live in, exposing the invisible power structures that underpin the reality of our daily lives and developing the means to imagine alternative futures. 

For the exhibition, Paglen has installed approximately 30,000 individually printed photographs pinned in a complex mosaic of images along the length of the curved wall. Taking as a starting point ImageNet: one of the most widely shared, publicly available collection of images, which is also used to train artificial intelligence networks, Paglen queries the content of images chosen for machine learning. ImageNet contains more than fourteen-million images organised into more than 21,000 categories or “classes”. In most cases, the connotations of image categories and names are uncontroversial i.e. a “strawberry” or “orange”. Others are classified under “debtors”, “alcoholics” and “bad persons”. These definitions, if used in AI, suggest a world in which machines will be able to elicit different forms of judgement against humankind.

Paglen’s new work is part of the Barbican’s 2019 season, Life Rewired.

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Heavy handed, we crush the moment
A performance commission by Last Yearz Interesting Negro
Thursday 28 November – Sunday 1 December 2019, The Pit

This November Barbican Art Gallery presents Heavy handed, we crush the moment, a new commission by Last Yearz Interesting Negro, the performance project of London-based artist and dancer Jamila Johnson-Small

Dance, darkness and bass frequencies – this is an immersive experience, somewhere between a dreamscape, a meditation, a nightmare and a nightclub. Last Yearz Interesting Negro presents a series of genre-blurring happenings, staging a new choreographic work that acts as an environment to host performances by guest artists. Working from the potential of dance as a radical social practice, Heavy handed, we crush the moment focuses on the sensory impact of the live encounter for performers and audience alike. Reflecting on boundaries, intimacy, spectacle and the inevitability of movement, Last Yearz Interesting Negro and collaborators create a charged atmosphere through sound, light, set and live performance. 

This commission is a contemporary response to the Barbican exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art (4 October 2019 – 19 January 2020), which explores the history of cabarets, cafés and clubs in modern art across the world. Spanning the 1880s to the 1960s, the exhibition celebrates the creativity of the spaces in which artists, performers, designers, musicians and writers congregated to push the boundaries of artistic expression. 

For information and images please visit: