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Exhibitions > Past Exhibitions

What We Call Love: From Surrealism to Now

Featuring modern and contemporary masterworks from the world’s leading collections by Abramović, Brancusi, Dalí, Duchamp Ernst, Giacometti, Oppenheim, Picasso, Warhol, Yoko Ono, and many more.

12 September 2015 –  7 February 2016

Wolfgang Tillmans, Central Nervous System, 2013, Inkjet print on paper mounted on aluminium in artist’s frame, Edition of 3 + 1 AP, Courtesy Maureen Paley, London. © Wolfgang Tillmans

Admission: €8 full price, €5 concession (senior citizens and the unwaged), under 18’s and those in full time education are free.
Admission free for IMMA Members plus one guest, click here to become an IMMA Member

Visitors are advised that this exhibition contains some adult themes and explicit imagery. Please speak to a member of staff for further information.

What We Call Love

Love in the 20th Century, according to the poet Arthur Rimbaud, had to be reinvented. Nowadays, in a world full of crisis and conflicts, tensed between opposite ideals, and submitted to increased individualism and intense consumption, love is seriously threatened and regularly challenged. Paradoxically, love in the 21st Century has never been so linked to individual identity and happiness.

What We Call Love explores how the notion of love has evolved within the 20th century. How have seismic sociological changes concerning sexuality, marriage and intimacy, alongside developments in gender issues, affected the way we conceive love today? How does visual art, from Surrealism to the present day, deal with love and what can these artistic representations tell us about what love means in our contemporary culture?
Drawing on contemporary sociology, neuroscience and of course art, What We Call Love sheds some light on these questions. While we cannot give a final definition of “what is love” we can examine how artists have represented it. Presented in three chapters, the exhibition draws on Surrealism’s idea of love as “amour fou” (crazy love), new visions of love which emerged after the 60’s and the often problematic concerns of contemporary love.

From Surrealism to Now

Focusing mainly on the now, this important exhibition will present a succinct selection of carefully chosen Surrealist works alongside key conceptual and contemporary pieces. It also integrates new commissions and other associated programmes in the forms of cinema and performance. Texts and interviews in the exhibiton catalogue from three leaders in their respective fields; Georges Sebbag on Surrealism, Eva Illouz on sociology and Semir Zeki on neuroscience will contribute to this reflection.

Love is a subject of great relevance in Ireland today, as our understanding and definitions of love expand with the changing face of contemporary society. Featuring a fantastic collection of masterworks by some of the most important figures in modern art - such as Constantin Brancusi, Salvador Dalí, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, Meret Oppenheim, Pablo Picasso; iconic works by the most significant artists of recent times – Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, Marina Abramović, Louise Bourgeois, Nan Goldin, Damien Hirst, Rebecca Horn, Carolee Schneemann, Wolfgang Tillmans - and new commissions by artists Lucy Andrews, Séamus Nolan, Garrett Phelan and Jeremy Shaw - What We Call Love invites the audience to consider what love means to them with a series of talks, events, film screenings and debates alongside the exhibition.

Curated by Christine Macel, Chief Curator at Centre Pompidou, with Rachael Thomas, Head of Exhibitions at IMMA, What We Call Love features almost 200 works, including over 30 works on loan from major collections such as Centre Pompidou, Paris; Tate, London; Museé Picasso, Paris; Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation, New York; Fondation Giacometti, Paris; British Council Collection; Musee d’art modern de la Ville de Paris; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; Collection institute d’art Contemporain, Rhone-Alpes; Marina Abramović Archives; and from numerous private collections and leading gallerists worldwide.

Featured Artists

Marina Abramović and ULAY, Sadie Benning, Louise Bourgeois, Constantin Brancusi, Brassaï, Victor Brauner, André Breton, Luis Buñuel, Cecily Brown, Miriam Cahn, Sophie Calle, Michele Ciacciofera, Dorothy Cross, Attila Csörgö, Salvador Dalí, Annabel Daou, Vlasta Delimar and Jerman, Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Jean Dupuy, Elmgreen and Dragset, Max Ernst, VALIE EXPORT, Jean Genet, Jochen Gerz, Alberto Giacometti, Nan Goldin, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Douglas Gordon, Mona Hatoum, Damien Hirst, Jim Hodges, Rebecca Horn, Jesper Just, Kapwani Kiwanga, Ange Leccia, Ghérasim Luca, Vlado Martek, André Masson, Annette Messager, Tracey Moffatt, Séamus Nolan, Nadja, Henrik Olesen, Yoko Ono, Meret Oppenheim, Ferhat Ozgür, Christodoulos Panayiotou, Nesa Paripovic, Garrett Phelan, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Carolee Schneemann, Rudolf Schwarzkogler, Paul Sharits, Jeremy Shaw, Wolfgang Tillmans, Andy Warhol, Cerith Wyn Evans, Jun Yang, Akram Zaatari.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled” (The New Plan), 1991
The artwork “Untitled” (The New Plan), 1991, by Cuban-born American artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996) was presented on six billboards across six sites within Dublin city centre as part of What We Call Love from 16 to 30 December 2015. Locations: 10 Ushers Island, Dublin 8 /  Townsend Street, Dublin 2 / 109 Pearse Street, Dublin 2 / 126 East Wall Road, Dublin 3 / Talbot Street, Dublin 1 / and 145 Parnell Street, Dublin 1. Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ artworks are known for their quiet, simple forms and minimal aesthetic. The artwork “Untitled” (The New Plan), 1991, is made by reproducing a specific colour image of denim fabric, a photograph by Gonzalez-Torres, exclusively to be used in the form of a billboard. The work is intentionally open to interpretation and driven by viewer interaction. Gonzalez-Torres specifically requested that the billboards be installed in a variety of locations in diverse neighbourhoods. Read more

What We Call Love is accompanied by an exciting programme of screenings, talks, events and live happenings. Bookmark this page for future updates.

A catalogue is published to accompany this exhibition, featuring five major essays from Christine Macel, Georges Sebbag, Eva Illouz, Semir Zeki and Rachael Thomas, as well as specific texts written by Christine Macel, Alicia Knock, Olivier Zeitoun, Victoria Evans, Poi Marr, Ben Mulligan and Seamus McCormack, published by IMMA and DAP Diffusion, New York. Buy from the IMMA Shop.

New commissions in this exhibition are part of the series New Art at IMMA, proudly supported by Matheson. Presented with the support of the French Embassy in Ireland and Official Hotel Partner The Dylan Hotel. Film series presented in collaboration with the Irish Film Institute. Kindly supported by RTE Supporting the Arts. 


Free Guided Tours

Free guided tours run every Wed at 1.15pm and Sat and Sun, 2.30pm.

This informal series of guided tours provides an introduction to the exhibition themes by focusing on a select number of artworks that are among the highlights of this exhibition. Tours are led by IMMA Staff and include the following themes:
 - Surrealism and Love
 - Love and the Revolution: Conceptual and Performance Art from 1960s
 - Love and Identity: Documentary and Installation Works from 1980s to Now

Tour last approximtely 30minutes and you don't need to pre-book, just meet at the main reception 5 minutes before the tour is due to start.

Talks and Events

Seamus Nolan, F**K IMMA
Exhibition: 12 January - 7 February 2016, Project Spaces
Led by Nolan, F**K IMMA is the work of various artists operating within the terrain of dissent and negation, inhabiting the boundaries of classical and contemporary, of male and female, and of the formal and informal institute. This new work offers a political and provocative observation on the idea of love by examining the notion of community as an expression of love and the contrasts between formal and counter-cultural community spaces. Nolan’s unique commission positions itself in a wholly immersive parallel to the meaning of ‘love' in society. In employing the language and strategy of conflict and agitation, the title F**K IMMA, is a statement; an immaterial and linguistic appropriation. The live event took place on Sunday 20 December 2015 in the IMMA Chapel.

Read more about this work (.pdf)

Elmgreen & Dragset
Live Performance: '24/7/365', 2009

Thursday 26 November, 1 - 5pm
Friday 11 December, 1 - 5pm
Thursday 4 February, 1 - 5pm
This is a free live performance of Elmgreen & Dragset work taking place in the exhibition space. In this performance piece '24/7/365', 2009, Elmgreen & Dragset display the love that can exist between two men in a more direct, but no less romantic, manner. For the performance two young men undress themselves, before lying together naked in a bed, their bodies locking together like two small spoons stacked for three minutes. The performance then culminates in them getting dressed again, before repeating the same routine over a period of four hours.
Admission fee €8/5 applies to exhibition. Students are Free.

IFI Film Series

IMMA partnered with the Irish Film Institute on a programme of films selected to respond to the exhibition What We Call Love: From Surrealism to Now. The films chosen reflected how the surrealist tradition has incorporated themes of love into their experimental works, from the early days of cinema to the present.

Sat 23 Jan, 1.30pm, IFI
A short talk introduced the film series in the context of the IMMA exhibition.

Double Bill
Un Chant D’Amour (A Song of Love)
Dir: Jean Genet / 1950 / 26 minutes / B&W, 35mm
This silent film directed by political and radical gay icon Jean Genet, presents a passionate relationship between inmates, separated from each other by prison walls. A revolutionary vision of emancipation through sensuality, Genet’s only film is a milestone in LGBT filmmaking.

L’age D’or
Dir: Luis Buñuel / 1930 / 63 minutes / B&W, 35mm
In a series of thematically linked vignettes, a couple’s attempts at consummating their relationship are continually thwarted by the bourgeois values and mores of their society. Collaborating with Salvador Dali, Luis Buñuel's experimental feature is a classic of the surrealist movement.

Sun 24 Jan, 1.30pm, IFI

Under The Skin
Dir: Jonathan Glazer / 2013 / 108 minutes / Colour, Digital
An alien has landed in Glasgow. Taking the form of a woman, she drives around the city luring lonely or lecherous men to a grim fate. Social realism and science fiction meld to startling effect in Jonathan Glazer’s hugely inventive third feature, a mesmerising audio visual experience with Scarlett Johansson perfectly cast as the unknowable, predatory being

Learn More about this exhibition

See what other visitors think. Follow the #WhatWeCallLove hashtag on Instagram and Twitter

Read the exhibition guide to What We Call Love.

Listen to the preview talk for the exhibition by Christine Macel (Chief Curator at Centre Pompidou) who explores how love is represented in art since the beginning of the twentieth century and is indicative of an evolution of the very concept of love over a period of 100years, taking you on a journey from Surrealism to now. 

Listen back to a fascinating lecture on the The Neurobiology of Love delivered by Semir Zeki (Professor of Neuroesthetics at the University College London) at IMMA. In this lecture he discusses his pioneering research on the organisation of the visual brain and his experimental enquiries into how a visual stimulus triggers an affective, emotional state, similar to our experience of beauty, desire and love.

Love Blogs: A series of blogs commissioned for the IMMA Blog
What does the Tarot tell us about love? by Tarot Maven Danielle Vierling
Do I lie when I say I love you? by Dr Noel Kavanagh
Love’s majesty by Andrew Hyland
Global Love on Skype by Dr Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain

Resource Blog: Let's talk about love we have gathered together all the resources from the exhibition in this blog, making a perfect introduction to the work, or if you have already visited, a place to delve deeper for further information.

RTE News previewed of the exhibition including short interviews with Christine Macel and Sarah Glennie, Director, IMMA.

Media Release for What We Call Love: From Surrealism to Now

Media Release for Séamus Nolan, F**K IMMA

Irish Museum of Modern Art, Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin 8, D08 FW31, Ireland
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