Review: Modern Couples at the Barbican
The Barbican Centre’s Modern Couples exhibition (open until 27 Jan) presents a different way of looking at art, by appreciating how intimate relationships inspired the modern artworks on display. We sent our writer Jess Browne-Swinburne to check it out.
We often only associate a piece of art with the signature that sits at the bottom of the painting. Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde, however, shows how artistic couples working during the 1900s inspired each other.
I really appreciated the diverse range of art and artists covered: it begins with small clay models by French sculptor Rodin, depicting his lover Camille Claudel; next, there are images of the life-sized doll commissioned by Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschika, of his lost lover Alma Mahler; finally, there are the architectural collaborations between Ireland’s Eileen Gray and Frenchman Jean Badovici, who conducted a very discreet relationship. You really have to adjust as each new art form is presented, but you’re left with a strong sense of the elastic power that desire and love hold over the creation art.
50 artist couples are covered. That may seem overwhelming, but I liked the diversity of relationships here: there’s the love between husband and wife, such as Diego Riviera and Frida Khalo; homosexual relationships between both men and women are represented; more unique marriages are here too, such as between Gerda Wegener and her wife, the transgender landscape artist Lili Elbe (played by Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl).
I thoroughly recommend Modern Couples: from paintings to sculpture and photography to literature, it shows how the most avant-garde couples of the modern art movement lived, learned and loved together.
Barbican Centre, Silk St, EC2Y 8DS
020 7638 8891 | www.barbican.org.uk
Love architecture? Catch Renzo Piano: The Art of Making Buildings at The Royal Academy of Arts before it closes on 20 January.