Age of Terror: Art Since 9/11 review

Art, Contemporary art
3 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(6user reviews)
Age of Terror: Art Since 9/11 review
Jitish Kallat, Circadian Rhyme 1, 2011, © The Artist / Photo Thelma Garcia / Courtesy Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris-Brussels

It’s hard to write about 9/11 without sounding glib. The brutality and enormity of that day’s events are so profound that little can match their intensity. So this exhibition of art made in the wake of the most shocking terrorist attack on Western soil sets itself a bit of an impossible task.

The show takes you on a journey from the event itself through to the shellshocked days that followed, onwards to the heightened security that came in its wake and then its horrible international repercussions.

You’re greeted by Hans-Peter Feldmann’s collection of newspaper front pages from the next day, Iván Navarro’s neon light boxes depicting the Twin Towers in reverse come next, plunging forever into the ground. Two pillars of dead Nazis are the Chapman brothers’ characteristically subtle take on it, followed by a marble security camera by Ai Weiwei. There are paintings of torture by Rachel Howard followed by a video of Lida Abdul whitewashing the destroyed Afghan presidential palace, and maps by Walid Siti and Hanaa Malallah showing the destruction of their home countries. This isn’t really a show about terrorism, it’s about living in terrorism’s shadow, and it’s exhausting.

You’re left with a sense of perpetual and unstoppable violence, ceaseless cycles of action and reaction. 9/11 --> the war in Afghanistan --> the invasion of Iraq --> the 7/7 bombings and on and on and on.

Still, it leaves you a little cold. Maybe that says more about how fatigued by these horrifying events we have become than any failings of the artists.

There are two problems here, though: one is that nothing can match the impact of the real thing. The events of 9/11 were so horrifying, and their documentation so comprehensive, that art about them can barely scratch the surface. The second problem is that 9/11 changed everything. All art is made in its wake, in societies entirely shaped by that day and its repercussions. We don’t have any art made now that isn’t made, somehow, in the shadow of 9/11 and what it led to. The attacks, the constant violence, the surveillance, the lurch towards the right: all triggered by 9/11. They could have included almost anyone and seen their work through the prism of that day. As a result, the show manages to be both too broad and not specific enough. An impossible task.


By: Eddy Frankel

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First can’t take photos at this exhibition which is always a massive disappointment I find. In this day and age not allowing photos is basically saying ‘don’t promote this for us please’ insanity!

This is a well thought out exhibition though. The exhibition shows how artists reacted to the twin towers terror attack and other atrocities. It’s not facts about terror attacks, its art in response to terror attacks. Interesting and some really great art pieces.


Seen through the eyes of a creative mind, everything acquires artistic value, including the 9/11 terror attacks. Gathering some of the most diverse reactions to those events, the Imperial War Museum makes an ambitious attempt, which features some of the most renowned contemporary artists from across the globe. The outcome is as varied as its contributors, whose approach goes from the documentary to the symbolic, from the personal impact to the objective observation of the aftermath.

After a decade, episodes in our lives lose importance and fade in our memory, whereas the attacks to the Twin Towers is as vivid now as it was almost 17 years ago. As many unprecedented occurrences from the past, it earned historical relevance, marking the beginning of a new millennium dominated by the contradiction between a state of heightened security and a lingering sense of jeopardy.

Age of Terror: Art Since 9/11 frames this contradiction, presenting different perspectives on the territorial conflicts that have been both the cause and consequence of those attacks. New York, London, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq alternate under the spotlight, and their drama is translated in world-class contemporary art with compelling effects.


I found interesting the way the exhibition was developed. Instead of presenting the facts themselves or having the aim of teaching anything to the public, it was more focused on how the artists reacted to the events of 9/11 and how they represent the "terror" in its various aspects. And luckily, this is not only from a western point of view. Many exhibits show the ferocity and inhumanity of the US army against islamic prisoners and enlarge the subject to all the subsequent facts to those events, in a critical perspective. 

This exhibition that makes you think, more than I would have expected. Nevertheless, be aware it's expensive! Tickets at £15..


I hadn't really read too much about this exhibition before attending and hadn't therefore realised it was more of an art exhibition.  To say it was enjoyable wouldn't be quite right due to the subject matter, but it was interesting and mostly engaging.  At times, some of the exhibits were hard to look at.  But they are evocative pieces that make you think about conflict in different ways.  The space is well-laid out and the exhibit flows well.


Having visited the 9/11 memorial museum in New York a few months ago, this exhibition did resonate with me. The newspapers from around the world on the day after the attack and the different countries' depictions of the day was very interesting. I did feel that the rest of the exhibition felt like a mismatch of things, the rooms felt a bit bare with not enough art to really fill them. I was disappointed that there wasn't a section about terror happening today and would have liked to have seen artist's perspectives following the London/Manchester etc attacks. Although not relating to 9/11, it would still be art since 9/11 and a comment on Terror today, 17 years later.


The Age of Terror exhibition promises great things. It is admirable for the Imperial War to bring their attention to modern day phenomenon of terrorism that has without a doubt changed the character of society, especially in the wake of 9/11. The exhibitions opens onto a challenging depiction of an inverted twin tower, while being simple and oddly hypnotic, gives a suitably respectful impression of the events of 9/11. From this point on an odd jumble of pieces invariably related to modern terrorism lay before you. Many of the works are thought provoking, I was particularly a fan of Kennard Phillips' 'Head of State' depicting Tony Blair, however the result was a bit more lack-luster. The exhibition although interesting did not teach, instruct or inspire in the way I hoped it would, being on a topic of such contention. Perhaps the subject matter is too large for the exhibition to contend with and it would have more of an impact to fix on a specific country or event.