The Horror Show banner
Curated Exhibition

The Horror Show!

The Horror Show! A Twisted Tale of Modern Britain was co-curated by Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard with Claire Catterall, Somerset House’s senior curator, and presented in The Embankment Galleries at Somerset House from 27 October 2022 – 19 February 2023. 

This landmark exhibition presented an alternative perspective on the last five decades of British culture, in three acts – Monster, Ghost and Witch. It featured over 200 artworks and culturally significant artefacts from some of the country’s most provocative artists, reacting to our most troubling times. 

“I am starting to think all exhibitions of contemporary art should be curated by artists. Pollard and Forsyth don’t get snagged by the laboured rationalities that often crush shows. You need to think like an artist in order to be able to connect so many gothic strands, strike a pose that’s funny and serious at the same time, and leave us unsure whether we should laugh or scream or cry.”
The Guardian ★★★★★



Installation images by Tim Bowditch. Courtesy of Somerset House.
All work © The artists and photographers.

The Horror Show logo

“The artists, musicians and filmmakers on display here made and continue to make wayward works of art because the society they found themselves in was, and still is, unbearable. Waywardness is the only way through, in other words, because it is modern Britain that is the horror show.”
Plinth ★★★★★


The opening act, Monster, began by delving into the economic and political turbulence of the 1970s and the high octane spectacle and social division of the 1980s. Against a backdrop of unrest and uprising, it charted the origin story and ascent of the individuals who will go on to disrupt, define and destroy British culture, while exploring the monsters which plague society today.

Artists in this section included Marc Almond, Bauhaus, Judy Blame, Leigh Bowery, Philip Castle, Chila Burman, Helen Chadwick, Monster Chetwynd, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Tim Etchells, Noel Fielding, Martin Green & Mark Moore, Pam Hogg, Dick Jewell, Harminder Judge, Daniel Landin, Jeanette Lee, Andrew Liles, Linder, London Leatherman, Don Letts, Luciana Martinez de la Rosa, Lindsey Mendick, Peter Mitchell, Dennis Morris, Matilda Moors, Tim Noble & Sue Webster, Keith Piper, Guy Peellaert, Gareth Pugh, Jamie Reid, Derek Ridgers, Nick Ryan, Ralph Steadman, Ray Stevenson, Poly Styrene, Francis Upritchard and Jenkin van Zyl.

“Somerset House’s lavish group show threads a different path through recent art history, one which emphasises the weird, the uncanny, and the hallucinatory. The Horror Show is a trip.”
The Quietus


The show’s second act, ​Ghost, marked the collapse of hyperinflated 1980’s culture into an uncanny temperature change that presided over the 1990s and early 2000s. It traced an unsettling path through to the global financial crisis of 2008, a turning point in time between a century of old and new, at the dawn of a digital age of faceless audiences and invisible cyber wars.

Artists in this section included A Guy Called Gerald, Barry Adamson, Hamad Butt, Adam Chodzko, Kevin Cummins, Graham Dolphin, Tim Etchells, Angus Fairhurst, Paul Finnegan, Ghostwatch, Laura Grace Ford, Lucy Gunning, Paul Heartfield, Susan Hiller, Matthew Holness & Richard Ayoade, Stewart Home, Derek Jarman, Michael Landy, Richard Littler (Scarfolk), Jeremy Millar, Haroon Mirza, Drew Mulholland, Pat Naldi & Wendy Kirkup, Cornelia Parker, Steve Pemberton, Nic Roeg, Richard Russell, Nick Ryan, Scanner (Robin Rimbaud), Adam Scovell, Sensory Leakage, David Shrigley, Iain Sinclair, Kerry Stewart, Tricky, Gavin Turk, Richard Wells, Rachel Whiteread, Words & Pictures.

“Horror here is portrayed as a response to broader cultural hostility: the darkness a reflection of wider social and political ills. By implication, the true monsters here are not the ones in the wild makeup and outlandish costumes: they’re the ones in suits with the tidy hair. Are you scared yet? You should be.”
The i News


The exhibition’s final act, Witch, focused on the period from 2008’s financial crash until the present day, and celebrated the emergence of a younger generation and their hyper-connected community – a global coven readily embracing a dynamic grounded in integration and equality. Artists forgo the patriarchal occult and old world druidism with a new sorcery, rooted in ecology and bodily autonomy.

Artists in this section included Ackroyd & Harvey, Josh Appignanesi, Ruth Bayer, Anna Bunting-Branch, Juno Calypso, Leonora Carrington, Coil, Charlotte Colbert, Marisa Carnesky, Damselfrau, Jesse Darling, Eccentronic Research Council, Jake Elwes, Tim Etchells, Gazelle Twin, Bert Gilbert, Rose Glass, Miles Glyn, Tyreis Holder, Matthew Holness, Sophy Hollington, Bones Tan Jones, Isaac Julien, Tina Keane, Serena Korda, Linder, Hollie Miller & Kate Street, Grace Ndiritu, Col Self, Tai Shani, Oliver Sim, Penny Slinger, Matthew Stone, Linda Stupert & Carl Gent, Suzanne Treister, Cathy Ward, Ben Wheatley, Zoe Williams and Zadie Xa.

Design by:
Catalogue editor:


Somerset House, London

Barnbrook and Sam Jacob Studio

Faye Dowling

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.