The Horror Show, photo collage of Margret Thatcher and Jordan

THE HORROR SHOW! A Twisted Tale of Modern Britain

27 October 2022 - 19 February 2023 
Embankment Galleries, Somerset House
£16.50/£12 concessions. Money saving exhibition tickets combined with catalogue and poster purchases also available.

This autumn, Somerset House invites visitors to journey into the underbelly of Britain’s cultural psyche. Through some of our country’s most provocative artists, landmark exhibition The Horror Show! presents an alternative perspective on modern Britain. Told in three acts – Monster, Ghost and Witch – it takes audiences on a heady ride through the past 50 years of counter-cultural movements, from the disruptive stance of 1970s punk to the enchanted otherness of modern witchcraft today, showing how through turbulent times, the subversive makes sense of the world around us. ​

​Celebrating the mavericks who draw inspiration from the monstrous, the mystic and the magical, The Horror Show!  sets the stage for a spellbinding spectacle of art, music and film with over 150 works and cultural objects from artists including: Gazelle Twin, Tai Shani, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Juno Calypso, Jenkin Van Zyl, Laura Grace Ford, Linder, Cornelia Parker, David Shrigley, Derek Jarman, Jamie Reid, Helen Chadwick, Marc Almond, Derek Ridgers, Penny Slinger, Noel Fielding, Pam Hogg, Rachel Whiteread, Tim Noble, Sue Webster and Tyreis Holder.​

​The Horror Show! is co-curated by Claire Catterall, Somerset House’s Senior Curator, with Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, artists and filmmakers resident at Somerset House Studios. 

Each act of the exhibition represents an era of British history from the past 50 years. Introducing The Horror Show!Monster explores the political turbulence of the 70s and social division of the 80s, revealing a resoundingly British spirit of rebellion which disrupts and dislocates the country’s cultural identity. ​

Ghost traces a path through the pressure drop and hollow hedonism of the 90s before hurtling full pelt to the global financial crisis of 2008, charting a turning point and a time caught between a century of old and new, at the dawn of a digital age - the harbinger of the haunted landscape of the internet and of invisible wars and viruses. ​

​Finally in Witch, gone is the paternalistic occult of old, as a new generation reclaims space for a multitude of positions and voices in a hyper-connected global community, embracing a more inclusive dynamic around identity, equality, hybridity and the environment.  ​

Each of the exhibition’s three acts opens with cabinets of curiosities, containing artworks, objects and ephemera from the era, connecting significant cultural shifts with the people and events that ignited them. Within each section’s distinct signature design, from architects Sam Jacob Studio and Grammy-winning creative studio Barnbrook, an intoxicating mix of multi-disciplinary pieces are displayed.  All three acts include spectacular, immersive installations to discover, and conclude with neon statements from Tim Etchells. The exhibition’s final scene features a striking, special presentation of Turner Prize winning-artist Tai Shani’s The Neon Hieroglyph, inspired by the incredible true story of the Maiara, flying witches commemorated on the remote Italian island of Alicudi. The sculpture, seen for the first time in the UK, will be accompanied by an audio installation by Gazelle Twin specially commissioned on the occasion of The Horror Show! .  It will create a dynamic finale space to speculate on the blockbuster show, reflecting on Britain’s rich anti-normative heritage and empowering agitators for new ages.  ​

​Claire Catterall, Senior Curator, Somerset House, said: “The Horror Show! critically examines the past five decades, taking a playful and unruly look at questions that seem more compelling and urgent than ever. With new commissions and works exhibited for the first time in the UK, this landmark exhibition brings together a leading group of artists like never before, who draw on the deviant and offer us a window in the otherworldly.  When the state of the nation so strongly desires us to seek something out of the norm – or even out of this world – it foregrounds the importance of the atypical and adventurous in radically reimagining our collective cultural conscience.” ​

​Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, co-curators of The Horror Show! and BAFTA nominated filmmakers, said: "The harder the times, the more we need Horror. A safe space to face fear. So​ roll up, and let the alchemical archetypes, Monster, Ghost and Witch, guide you through a subversive story of British culture. The radical artists and anarchic troublemakers who shaped who we are, and how we got here. But The Horror Show! isn't a nostalgia trip. It's a tactical toolkit to show us what's possible. A dark mirror in which we might just glimpse the future."  ​

​The special exhibition shop, edited by Faye Dowling’s alternative art store GothShop.co, will feature an exclusive range of limited-edition items, including a collectible exhibition catalogue priced at £15, alongside a selection of original and inspired gifts from clothing, silver and leather accessories, crystals and homewares to limited edition prints, books, zines and tarot decks.  ​

NOTES TO EDITORS​​

Dates: 27 October 2022 – 19 February 2023 ​
Tickets: £16.50/£12 concessions. Money-saving exhibition tickets combined with catalogue and poster purchases also available. Tickets via somersethouse.org.uk. ​

Content guidance: This exhibition contains some graphic and disturbing artworks and therefore may not be suitable for children under 12.​

ABOUT SOMERSET HOUSE ​

London’s working arts centre ​

Somerset House is London’s working arts centre and home to the UK’s largest creative community. Built on historic foundations, we are situated in the very heart of the capital. ​ ​

​Dedicated to backing progress, championing openness, nurturing creativity and empowering ideas, our cultural programme is ambitious in scope. We insist on relevance, but aren’t afraid of irreverence, and are as keen on entertainment as enrichment. We embrace the biggest issues of our times and are committed to oxygenating new work by emerging artists. Where else can you spend an hour ice-skating while listening to a specially commissioned sound piece by a cutting-edge artist? It is this creative tension—the way we harness our heritage, put the too-often overlooked on our central stage and use our neo-classical backdrop to showcase ground-breaking contemporary culture—that inspires our programme. Old and new, history and disruption, art and entertainment, high-tech and homemade, combined with the fact that we are home to a constantly shape-shifting working creative community: this is our point of difference. It is what we are proud of. And it is what makes the experience of visiting or working in Somerset House inspiring and energizing, urgent and exciting.  ​