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This exhibition brought together historic and modern and contemporary works to examine how utopian strategies have been imagined.


Utopia is, at its essence, about creating a perfect world, yet in this way, it is always in opposition with the present.

In 1516 Lawyer and Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas More published Utopia – a book that gave name and form to an idea that captured the human imagination – that of aspiring to an ideal future and better society. 

More conceived of an island community – independent, insular and able to prescribe its own ways of living. Yet at the root of More's proposition for an ideal world is contradiction. The term utopia was taken from the Greek ou-topos meaning no place. A perfect nation can never be realised, because it is different for everybody – it is nowhere and yet everywhere. 

This exhibition crosses genres, media and timeframes to provide a playful and provocative framework for probing how Britain's literary and visual culture has perpetuated an idea of a utopian society that fosters nostalgic yearnings for a seemingly lost past.

Within the exhibition, Whitworth Young Contemporaries have created a space that uses the Whitworth's collection to start a conversation on what utopian-thinking looks like for young people today.

Whitworth Young Contemporaries (WYC) is a group of young people who meet weekly to connect art, ideas and communities. You can follow the WYC on Instagram @whitworthyc

31 January 2020 – 17 March 2020 (Closed due to COVID 19, Lockdown 1)
16 September 2020 – 4 November 2020 (Closed due to COVID 19, Lockdown 3)


Image: Nathan Coley, We Are The Monument, 2019
Handprinted Zuber wallpaper, aluminium lightbox with LED lights
Courtesy the Artist and Parafin, London. Photo: Peter Mallet