Skip to navigation | Skip to main content | Skip to footer

Modern and Contemporary Art

Cornelia Parker, Gustav Metzger, Picasso and Van Gogh come together to represent art that reflects our time, collected within the context of the modern greats of the 20th century

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.

The Whitworth has 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.

The Whitworth collects art actively, seeking to identify those new artists who will become significant and influential shapers of contemporary visual culture. We have a reputation for showing performance art and have steadily added it to the collection, for example, with works by Marina Abramovic (who stripped the Whitworth bare as part of MIF in 2009, Alistair MacLennan and Kira O'Reilly represented through video, and also vast drawings made by Nikhil Chopra.

In 2012, We Face Forward cemented our growing relationship with West African artists, and work by Georges Adéagbo, Amadou Sanogo, Nii Obodai and others is well represented. Many of the great names of contemporary art are also strongly featured, such as Gustav Metzger, Cornelia Parker, Rachel Whiteread, Mary Kelly, Tracey Emin, Gillian Wearing, Michael Craig-Martin, Jane and Louise Wilson and Wolfgang Tillmans, and art made by untrained artists is magnificently made present through the Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection.

Discover our modern and contemporary works for yourself. Search our collection, or see what’s on at the gallery.


Nikhil Chopra, Coal on Cotton