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Postwar Modern

New Art in Britain 1945-1965

Postwar Modern installation shot

A revelatory new take on art in Britain after the Second World War, a period when artists had to make sense of an entirely altered world.

Postwar Modern explores the art produced in Britain in the wake of a cataclysmic war. Certainty was gone, and the aftershocks continued, but there was also hope for a better tomorrow. These conditions gave rise to an incredible richness of imagery, forms and materials in the years that followed. 

Focusing on ‘the new’, Postwar Modern features 48 artists and around 200 works of painting, sculpture, photography, collage and installation. It explores the subjects that most preoccupied artists, among them the body, the post-atomic condition, the Blitzed streetscape, private relationships and imagined future horizons. As well as reconsidering well-known figures, the exhibition foregrounds artists who came to Britain as refugees from Nazism or as migrants from a crumbling empire, in addition to female artists who have tended to be overlooked.

The exhibition is generously supported by Cockayne – Grants for the Arts, The London Community Foundation, The Clare McKeon Charitable Trust, and the Henry Moore Foundation. 

Please be aware that we are now a cashless box office. If you want to buy your ticket on the day then have your card ready.

Membership Plus
Free entry + guest

Free entry

Become a Member

To book members tickets, first log in to your account and then when booking select 'standard tickets'. Your discount will apply on the confirmation page. 

Corporate Membership
Free entry

Become a Corporate Member


Subject to availability




Subject to availability

14–25? Join Young Barbican for free

Unwaged: £13
Students: £13
NHS staff: £13
Over 65s: £13
Over 65s (weekend) £18
Art Fund Members: £9
Under 14s: Free

Discounts are subject to availability. They cannot be combined to make greater savings. Please bring proof of discount status where possible.

Wheelchair spaces, free companion seats may now be booked online. 

Please select the relevant preferences on the access registration page during your booking so we can provide you with the correct information and discounts. 

Booking essential companion tickets: Please select at least two tickets and one of them will be automatically discounted to zero in the basket. 

Visitors with access requirements may be eligible for a concessionary price. Anyone requiring a personal assistant will be entitled to a free ticket for them.

Please contact [email protected] to book tickets, and for help planning your visit.

Find out more about our Access Membership scheme 


‘This is an enthralling exhibition‘
‘That rare thing in a contemporary art gallery – a genuinely polemical exhibition‘
‘Across all these works you find pop, minimalism, abstraction, expressionism and the seeds of countless other ideas, all because life in post-war Britain was wild, difficult, weird and oppressive.‘
‘A poignant reminder of hope and humanity among the ruins‘
‘This fascinating exhibition is crammed with surprises and delights‘
‘What makes this show special is the focus it puts on little-known and sometimes never-before-shown artists‘
‘But that’s postwar Britain: upbeat as well as fearful.‘
‘Don’t miss this bold exhibition featuring Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon‘
‘An exhibition of works by emerging British artists of the 1950s and ’60s portrays an inventive — yet sombre — response to newfound freedoms‘
‘This show succeeds in revealing numerous half-forgotten movements – and contains some out-and-out masterpieces‘
The Spectator


Adrian Heath
Alan Davie
Alison Smithson
Anthony Hill
Anwar Jalal Shemza
Aubrey Williams
Avinash Chandra
Bert Hardy
Bill Brandt
David Hockney
David Medalla
Denis Williams
Eduardo Paolozzi
Elisabeth Frink
Eva Frankfurther
Francis Newton Souza
Francis Bacon
Franciszka Themerson
Frank Auerbach
Frank Bowling
Gillian Ayres
Gustav Metzger
Hans Coper
Jean Cooke 
John Bratby

John Latham
John McHale
Kim Lim
Lee Miller
Leon Kossoff
Lucian Freud
Lucie Rie
Lynn Chadwick
Magda Cordell
Mary Martin
Nigel Henderson
Patrick Heron
Peter King
Peter Smithson
Prunella Clough
Richard Hamilton
Robert Adams
Robyn Denny
Roger Mayne
Shirley Baker 
Sylvia Sleigh
Victor Pasmore
William Scott
William Turnbull

Abbas Zahedi: Age of Many Posts

For Postwar Modern we have invited Abbas Zahedi to develop an expanded programme that explores resonances between the postwar period and now


Postwar Modern: Artist Spotlight

Curatorial Assistant Michal Goldschmidt introduces four artists from the exhibition: Anwar Jalal Shemza, Franciszka Themerson, Kim Lim and Shirley Baker. Drawing from their own writings, she shines a light on their life and work.

Supported by

Cockayne - Grants for the Arts logo
Henry Moore Foundation logo
The London Community Foundation logo

Visit our Gallery for free

Members enjoy free entry to all our exhibitions, so they can visit as many times as they like. Members Plus can bring a guest, too.


School Groups 

Entry to the Art Gallery is free for all students in Key Stages 1-3. A discounted group booking rate of £3 per student is available to students in formal education groups up to the age of 19. 

School Visiting Slots

We will be running a series of schools-only viewing slots for groups of up to 30 students to view the exhibition and receive a tour. The dates available are:

Tue 19 Apr 10-11am
Thu 21 Apr  2-3pm
Tue 26 Apr 10-11am
Thu 28 Apr 2-3pm
Tue 3 May 10-11am
Thu 5 May 2-3pm 
Tue 10 May 10-11am
Thu 12 May 2-3pm
Tue 17 May 10-11am
Thu 19 May 2-3pm
Tue 24 May 10-11am
Thu 26 May 2-3pm

Please note that schools are still welcome to visit outside of these hours!

Tours and Workshops

We will also be offering guided tours of the exhibition for £35 per class of 30.

There is also the option of booking a workshop with multimedia artist Aphra Shemza either before or after your visit for £100 per class of 30.

Please contact us at [email protected] with all booking inquiries and questions.


Postwar Modern Twilight Teacher CPD

Mon 28 Mar, 6.15-8.30pm - for Primary Schools (KS 1-2)
Tue 29 Mar, 6.15-8.30pm, for Secondry Schools (KS 2-4)

Join us for an evening CPD workshop for teachers to explore the work and themes of our new exhibition, Postwar Modern

Participants will discover and discuss ways to bring creative ideas into the classroom, responding to the artists featured and themes explored in the exhibition. Each event will be focused on curriculum links, discussion points for students and sharing tools and resources for further engagement and learning. The event will include resources and refreshments, and include hands-on making activities. This event is suitable for teachers, staff and leaders of schools, colleges, youth centres. We encourage anyone leading classes or sessions with children and young people to take part.

Places are free, but booking is essential. Please email us to secure your space or with any other questions:

[email protected] 


Art Gallery