Art at the Barbican

Barbican Centre

From architecture and design to fashion and photography, we take a look through some of the highlights from our Art Gallery and The Curve from recent years.  

Rain Room
In 2012, Random International invited visitors to experience what it is like to control the rain. Through innovative motion sensors, visitors could walk through a wall of rain and not get wet. 

The exhibition was one of our most popular installations in The Curve and has since gone on to tour in New York’s MoMa and Shanghai’s Yuz Musuem.

As part of the Rain Room installation, we invited contemporary dance choreographer Wayne McGregor to create a special performance for this unique space.

Pop Art Design
Bold, brash and filled with colour, in 2013 our Art Gallery payed homage to the vibrant movement that was Pop Art over fifty years after it exploded onto the art scene with Pop Art Design.  

Bringing together more than 200 works by over 70 artists and designers, the exhibition included works by such artists as Peter Blake, Pauline Boty, Judy Chicago, Richard Hamilton, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Joe Tilson and Andy Warhol, Gaetano Pesce and Ettore Sottsass.

United Visual Artists - Momentum
The Curve gallery was once again transformed into an immersive sensory experience as United Visual Artists premiered their light installation, Momentum. 

Consisting of twelve pendulums that activate light and sound as they swing, Momentum drew attention to The Curve’s vast arc, inviting you to journey through the space guided by your heightened senses.

Digital Revolution
A three-dimensional laser light field, giant robotic snakes and wearable tech... Just a taste of what visitors explored as we explored digital creativity in all its forms in Digital Revolution. 

We welcomed new commissions including Google's DevArt, an installation by global music artist and entrepreneur and Yuri Suzuki, works by artists Umbrellium and experienced the Oscar-winning visual effects behind Christopher Nolan's Inception and Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity.

In partnership with Google, we launched a call out to artists working with digital technology and code to create a series of special commissions for 'Digital Revolution'.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier
In 2014, we welcomed the infamous couturier, Jean Paul Gaultier to host the first major retrospective of his work. 

With his avant-garde fashion creations and cutting-edge designs, Gaultier has shaped the look of fashion over the last 40 years.

The exhibition featured Madonna's now iconic conical bra, as seen on the Blonde Ambition tour.

The World of Charles and Ray Eames
Charles and Ray Eames are among the most influential designers of the 20th century. Enthusiastic and tireless experimenters, this husband and wife duo moved fluidly between the fields of photography, film, architecture, exhibition-making, and furniture and product design. 

From personal letters, photographs, drawings and artwork, to their products, models, multi-media installations and furniture, The World of Charles and Ray Eames celebrated the many facets of the work of these dynamic designers and bringing their ideas and playful spirit to life in our Art Gallery.

Explore The World of Charles and Ray Eames in this flythrough of the gallery

Constructing Worlds
Since the very first photograph, architecture has proved to be an enduring subject matter for photographers. 2014’s 'Constructing Worlds' looked beyond the photography’s ability to simply document the built world and explored the power of photography to reveal wider truths about society. 

Artists include: Berenice Abbott, Iwan Baan, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Hélène Binet, Walker Evans, Luigi Ghirri, Andreas Gursky, Lucien Hervé, Nadav Kander, Luisa Lambri, Simon Norfolk, Bas Princen , Ed Ruscha, Stephen Shore, Julius Shulman, Thomas Struth, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Guy Tillim.

Strange and Familiar
In 2015, iconic British photographer Martin Parr curated, Strange and Familiar, exploring how international photographers from the 1930s onwards have captured the social, cultural and political identity of the UK. 

Striking and insightful, Strange and Familiar allowed us to see how Britain is perceived through the lens of international photographers. Such as these shots from American photographer, Bruce Gilden's 'Black Country' series.

From social documentary and portraiture to street and architectural photography, the exhibition celebrates the work of leading photographers, including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Rineke Dijkstra, Robert Frank and Garry Winogrand.

Ragnar Kjartansson
Bringing together live performance, music, film, painting, sculpture and drawing, in 2016 we presented a long overdue solo exhibition of the internationally acclaimed Icelandic artist, Ragnar Kjartansson – the first in the UK to survey his work.

Visitors were greeted by ten troubadours, performing the song 'Take Me Here by the Dishwasher' on repeat throughout the day in one of Kjartansson's trademark durational performances.

All 144 of the paintings in 'The End' were completed when Ragnar Kjartansson represented Iceland at the Venice Biennale.

The troubadours performed before a looping short erotic film of Kjartansson's mother and father - rumour has it this was the moment Kjartansson was conceived...

In a special commission for his Barbican exhibition, Ragnar Kjartansson created 'Second Movement' a durational performance which saw two women in period dress trapped in a never-ending kiss on the Barbican lakeside.

The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined
Potent, provocative and sometimes shocking, the word vulgar conjures up strong images, ideas and feelings in us all.    The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined explored the inherently challenging but utterly compelling territory of taste in fashion, from the renaissance through to contemporary design. 

From historical costumes to couture and ready-to-wear looks, The Vulgar featured contributions from leading contemporary designers such as Walter van Beirendonck, Chloé, Christian Dior, Pam Hogg, Christian Lacroix, Lanvin, Moschino, Miuccia Prada, Agent Provocateur, Elsa Schiaparelli, Viktor & Rolf, Louis Vuitton and Vivienne Westwood.

We spoke to some of the designers from The Vulgar to find out how they define 'vulgarity' and how it has impacted their work - or defined their work in the public eye.

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