17 June – 18 July 2010

The Exhibition

What makes religious imagery powerful and enduring? How do historical and contemporary artworks engage the viewer in questions of belief? 

This exhibition explores these questions by confronting historical Christian art with contemporary art that continues to engage with the same visual tradition. The works were selected from two very different collections. Those from The Courtauld Gallery were originally created as devotional objects. They were understood to be imbued with sacred power and to inspire empathy with the suffering and compassion of the Virgin Mary and Christ.

Works from the Arts Council Collection demonstrate how a variety of contemporary artists continue to evoke and rework religious imagery.  Although their works may not be religious in intent, they can command a similarly strong emotional response to the enduring themes of belief, doubt, suffering and compassion. Displayed together the works are surprisingly resonant in form and meaning, inviting us to consider continuities and change in the use of religious imagery throughout history.


   Faith & Incredulity


   Suffering & Compassion

Blood Tears Faith Doubt podcast 1.mp3
Blood Tears Faith Doubt podcast 2.mp3
Blood Tears Faith Doubt podcast 3.mp3

Exhibition Booklet
Press Release
Fact Sheet
Photo Sheet


Image credits:

Left: Adam Chodzko 2101 Km/Hr (Secretor), 1993, Manifestation juice (food dye and glycerine) lead, plastic, acrylic and acetate, Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © The Artist. Gift of Charles Saatchi 1999 

Middle: Follower of Dieric Bouts Christ Crowned with Thorns, c.1475, oil on panel © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

Right: Markéta Luskačová, People sitting outside church during mass, 1965, silver print, Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © the artist.