Modern Couples, Barbican

Modern Couples – Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde at the Barbican art gallery explores creative relationships across painting, sculpture, photography, design and literature.

While exhibitions with a strong curatorial concept might tend to be overwhelmingly didactic, this show at the Barbican is both pleasing to the eye and the mind. It tells the stories behind creative and personal relationships, from obsessional love affairs to life-long companionships of men and women, men and men and women and women in the late 19th and 20th century. The shown is packed with powerful themes like feminism and sexual liberation but at the same time appears to be very romantic. On show are mostly paintings, sculptures and photographs but also original (love) letters, audio recordings, furniture and fashion pieces. 

The most interesting artist couples for me were the following, in chronological order.

Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin
Alma Mahler and Gustav Mahler
Aino Aalto and Alvar Aalto
Eileen Gray and Jean Badovici
Dora Maar and Pablo Picasso
Lilly Reich and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Leonora Carrington and Max Ernst
Maria Martins and Marcel Duchamp

The exhibition unfolds on both levels of the gallery and in order to be able to fully take it in, you would need to read all of the accompanying wall texts. There are 46 artist couples being portrait in the exhibition–which makes it 46 wall texts to read. Even though they are very well written, I would encourage you to go and see the exhibition on your own to be able to focus on the texts. It takes minimum of two hours to see the whole exhibition.

Barbican Centre Art Gallery
Through 27 January 2019

barbican.org.uk

Installation view featuring Leonora Carrington, Bird Superior: Portrait of Max Ernst, c.1939 Barbican Art Gallery 10 October 2018 – 27 January 2019 © John Phillips / Getty Images

Installation view featuring Leonora Carrington, Bird Superior: Portrait of Max Ernst, c.1939, Barbican Art Gallery, © John Phillips/Getty Images

Installation view featuring Aino Aalto and Alvar Aalto, Barbican Art Gallery ©John Phillips/Getty Images

Installation view featuring Aino Aalto and Alvar Aalto, Barbican Art Gallery © John Phillips/Getty Images

Installation view featuring Eileen Gray and Jean Badovici Barbican Art Gallery © John Phillips / Getty Images

Installation view featuring Eileen Gray and Jean Badovici Barbican Art Gallery © John Phillips / Getty Images

Installation view, Barbican Art Gallery © John Phillips/Getty Images

Installation view, Barbican Art Gallery © John Phillips/Getty Images