This is a horror show, but not the sort of horror you might expect, as it’s not scary horror in the classic sense, but more a look at how artists have expressed their own personal horror at what they see around them. Not that it’s entirely free of images that might adorn a scary movie, but most of the show is a reflection of society ranging from the 1970s to the modern day.

Something that’s important to be aware of is that when artists are contemplating their own horror at what they see, it’s generally meaning that they don’t approve. So if you think the 1980s were pretty good, you won’t see a lot in here to agree with you. If however, you think the 1980s was a disaster, then you’re going to get a lot more of an emotional hit from this exhibition.

It’s also a very large exhibition, filling a lot of rooms at the riverside end of Somerset House, ranging from small objects in cabinets to huge rooms filled with a handful of large artworks.

There’s a heck of a lot here, and a lot of it is very good, but it’s also so wide-ranging that other than picking out highlights it’s hard to describe, and it’s more of the sum of its parts than a display of specific items. I was particularly taken though by a couple of rooms off to one side, and easy to miss, where they’re showing videos, from BBC Ghostwatch and Derek Jarman’s Blue.

It’s a hard exhibition to describe though. Yes, it’s good, but there’s a lingering “but” as if the exhibition is filled with lots of uncomfortably wonderful objects, but maybe too many of them assume an existing understanding of why they’ve been chosen with a lack of explanation.

Certainly the last room in the exhibition is very much a mystery.

However, that said, it’s good in the round, when you take everything together — a bit like a cake recipe only really works if you eat the finished cake and not the individual ingredients.

It’s bizarre in places, disturbing in others, and downright odd in many, but always rather good in a way that’s really quite annoyingly difficult to articulate.

The Horror Show! A Twisted Tale of Modern Britain is at Somerset House until 19th February 2023.

You’re recommended to book in advance from here.

Adults: £16.50 | Concessions / Child (6-11): £12 | Art Pass: £13.20

Also, if you live in Westminster and have a City Save card, then entry is free on Tues and Weds.


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