2017 Archive: About the exhibition

CORPUS: The Body Unbound explored how artists past and present have engaged with the body – the corpus – to interrogate, analyse and reimagine fundamental aspects of the human condition. For artists, the human figure has been a site of optimism, a source of anxiety, as well as a symbol of limitations imposed by the self and society. Curated by the students of The Courtauld’s MA Curating the Art Museum, CORPUS: The Body Unbound responded to The Courtauld Gallery’s Special Display Bloomsbury Art & Design, on view in the adjacent gallery.

About the Exhibition

Spanning more than 600 years of artistic practice, this exhibition brings together works from The Courtauld Gallery and the Arts Council Collection, creating unexpected confrontations and dialogues across time, space and media. Works by artists including Peter Paul Rubens (1557-1640), Henry Moore (1898-1986) and Wolfgang Tillmans (b.1968) explore the strength and fragility of the body and the potential optimism of the human spirit in times of conflict. The relationship between identity and the body is challenged in contemporary works by Claudette Johnson (b.1959) and Zineb Sedira (b.1963). Throughout the exhibition, the limits of artistic processes are also considered. These limits might be self-imposed by an artist or inherent in the chosen medium, and are visible in works ranging from contemporary sculpture by Rebecca Warren (b.1965) to a fourteenth-century ivory diptych. These works present multiple bodies, flesh and bone, and examine the constraints to which these bodies are subject.


CORPUS: The Body Unbound raises fundamental questions about these constraints as well as the boundless possibilities of the human body and spirit. In an age of increasing anxiety, uncertainty, and alienation, it seems more important than ever to explore how artists past and present have engaged with the body to comment on what it means to be human.

Our exhibition pamphlet

Our learning resource