Modern Couples

Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde

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A. Rodchenko and V. Stepanova descending from an airplane.

A rich exploration of intimate relationships in all their various forms, from obsessional and fleeting to life-long – revealing a playground for experimentation and creativity.

What do we mean by a ‘couple’ today? With society’s changing approach to marriage, partnerships, family, parenthood and gender, this major exhibition is the first to showcase creative individuals who came together in intimate relationships to work across photography, sculpture, architecture, poetry, music and dance. In so doing, they forged new kinds of art and ways of living, while challenging gender stereotypes.

Featuring around 40 principal couples; among them legendary figures such as Gabriele Münter and Wassily Kandinsky; Varvara Stepanova and Alexander Rodchenko; Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West; Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais; Eileen Gray and Jean Badovici; Lee Miller and Man Ray; Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson; Dora Maar and Pablo Picasso; as well as lesser known couples such as Emilie Flöge and Gustav Klimt; Romaine Brooks and Natalie Clifford-Barney, Lavinia Schulz and Walter Holdt, and Mary Reynolds and Marcel Duchamp.

Exhibition organised by Centre Pompidou-Metz in collaboration with Barbican Centre, London.

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olaf breuning smoke installation at the barbican centre in london

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