5 contemporary artworks you must see in London

Barbican centre for contemporary art, London
Outside of the Barbican centre, London

Known throughout the world for its vibrant cultural life, London is undoubtedly Europe’s cultural capital. Art galleries, theatres, concert halls, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy art in all its forms during a trip to the English capital. Today, Artsper invites you to discover its museums, and presents 5 contemporary artworks to see in London.

1. Mark Rothko at the Tate Modern.

Rothko Room at the Tate Modern, London
Rothko room at the Tate Modern

The Rothko paintings displayed in this room were originally commissioned for the Four Seasons Hotel in New York in 1950. The American painter painted these dark works, much darker than his previous works, to create an overwhelming and oppressive atmosphere. Indeed, it was inspired by Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library in Florence. When he realised that this project was not the most suitable for the friendly atmosphere of a restaurant, Rothko withdrew from the Four Season project. A few years later, he decided to give this series to the Tate. There, the paintings are displayed according to the artist’s vision, in a room with reduced luminosity, where they cover almost the entire height of the walls. The visitor is therefore caught by the atmosphere of this room, which is both almost disturbing and conducive to meditation.

2. Barbara Hepworth at the Tate Britain.

"Pelagos", Dame Barbara Hepworth, Tate Britain, London
Dame Barbara Hepworth (1946) Pelagos

Barbara Hepworth is one of the most famous of British sculptor. She is one of the leading figures of abstract sculpture in the first half of the 20th century. Pelagos (“sea” in Greek) is one of the works that were inspired by the wild landscapes of Cornwall. Indeed, after moving to St Ives in 1939, her work was increasingly marked by this exceptional environment. Today, most of her sculptures are on display in her former residence, which has been transformed into a museum. But even if you can’t make it to Cornwall, you can start discovering her work at the Tate Britain!

3. Dorothea Lange at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Dorothea Lange (vers 1936) Migrant Mother, Victoria and Albert Museum, Londres
Dorothea Lange (vers 1936) Migrant Mother

Migrant mother is undoubtedly the most famous of the American photographer’s works. But even more importantly, with this portrait of Florence Owen Thompson and her children, Dorothea Lange put a face on the reality of the Great Depression. The power of this portrait has left its mark on the entire world. Thanks to this work, Dorothea Lange also became an icon of documentary photography, at a time when women were still few in this profession. You can admire this work at the V&A in London.

4. Marcel Duchamp at the Tate Modern.

Marcel Duchamp (1917/1964) Fountain, Tate Modern London
Marcel Duchamp (1917/1964) Fountain

Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, is perhaps the most controversial work of the 20th century. It is also the artist’s most famous readymade. The work is actually an inverted porcelain urinal, signed “R. Mutt” in black paint. When Duchamp presented this work at the first exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York in 1917, it was refused, which led him to leave the organisation. Like most of Duchamp’s works, the original has now been lost. On the other hand, one of the few reproductions created under Duchamp’s direction in the 1950s is visible at the Tate Modern.

5. Tracey Emin at the Tate Britain.

Tracey Emin (2014) I Could Feel You, Tate Britain, London
Tracey Emin (2014) I Could Feel You

Tracey Emin is a member of the Young British Artists group, which became famous for its use of “shock tactics” in the 1990s. In 2007, she became a member of the Royal Academy of Arts. She uses all kinds of media for her work, from photography to embroidery, drawing, sculpture or painting. Most of her works have a deeply intimate and confessional aspect, and Emin explores her personal experience in works that are sometimes provocative, sometimes touching, and always thought-provoking. I could feel you, as well as other drawings from the series which it is a part of, can be seen at the Tate Britain in London.

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