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Modern and Contemporary Art

Art that reflects our time.

Modern and Contemporary Art

Our collection gives an excellent overview of the main threads that have run through art from the modern art revolution of late 19th-century France through to the art of our own time

Expressed chronologically, it begins with a group of works by Degas, Van Gogh, Pissarro, Gauguin and other Impressionists and Post-impressionists. Later major names of European Modernism can be added to this list - Picasso, Maholy-Nagy and Paul Klee - alongside British artists of the early and mid-20th century, notably Sickert, Epstein, Wadsworth, Piper, Ben Nicholson, Winifred Nicholson, Hepworth and Moore.

We hold major works by Bacon, Freud and Auerbach, artists who shaped new kinds of painting in 1950s London, and the gallery was also at the forefront of collecting British art in the 1960s and 1970s – when some of David Hockney and Bridget Riley's earliest purchases by a public institution were made. From the 1980s and 90s, the Whitworth holds work by the Young British Artists including Tracey Emin, Michael Landy, Gillian Wearing and Sarah Lucas. The art of untrained artists is also represented magnificently through the Musgrave Kinley Collection of Outsider Art.

The Whitworth continues to actively collect art, seeking to identify those new artists who will become significant and influential shapers of contemporary visual culture. We prioritise the acquisition of works that offer context to our world today – in all of its complexity and diversity. Recent acquisitions include work by Mounira al Solh, Lisa Bryce, Barbara Walker and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. We have a reputation for showing time-based media and have been steadily adding it to the collection with works by Isaac Julien, Steve McQueen, Elizabeth Price, Suzanne Lacy, The Otolith Group and Forensic Architecture.


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Image: Mounira al Solh, I Strongly Believe in the Right to be Frivolous, 2012-ongoing. Courtesy of the artist.

On display in Traces of Displacement (7 April 2023 – 7 January 2024)