The Bloomberg Commission: Goshka Macuga: The Nature of the Beast

  • Goshka Macuga: The Bloomberg Commission

5 April 2009-4 April 2010
Gallery 2

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‘ Nature of the Beast is like the eye of a storm.’
 – Adrian Searle, The Guardian, 31 March 2009

London-based Polish artist Goshka Macuga is widely acclaimed for her sculptural installations of historic objects and documents. Creating complex networks of reference they are poignant reminders of the profound relation between aesthetics and politics. For this, the first in a series of year-long artists’ commissions, Macuga has conceived a unique venue for public gatherings which references a key moment in the Whitechapel Gallery’s history. In 1939 the Gallery hosted Picasso’s Guernica, an outcry against Fascist war atrocities, to drum up support for the Republican forces fighting in Spain.

In 1955 Nelson Rockefeller commissioned a life- size tapestry of Picasso’s painting. Some thirty years later this was lent to the United Nations Headquarters in New York where it has hung ever since outside the Security Council. Offered as a deterrent to war, in 2003 the tapestry was covered by a blue curtain in front of which Colin Powell delivered his fateful speech on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The room has been designed to accommodate meetings, discussions and debates around a central table, with Guernica once again as a backdrop. Groups are invited to organise these events free of charge during opening hours.  
For advanced booking please email

Download Goshka Macuga's invitation to visitors

Download an introduction to the exhibition.  

Read summaries of past meetings

Film programme

Listen to art critics Andrew Graham-Dixon and Sister Wendy Beckett discuss the impact of Guernica on the BBC Today programme.

Discover the tale behind the tapestry as Jonathan Glancey speaks to Whitechapel gallery director, Iwona Blazwick, about Picasso's famous denunciation of war – and its return to east London.

Supported by:


The Bloomberg Commission invites an international artist to create an annual site-specific artwork inspired by the rich history of the former library. Bloomberg’s support reflects its commitment to innovation, and its ongoing efforts to expand access to art, science and the humanities. Additional support provided by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, as part of POLSKA! YEAR, the Henry Moore Foundation, the Polish Cultural Institute, and the Wingate Scholarships. With thanks to Kate MacGarry. Goshka Macuga is the Wingate Artist-in-Residence at the Whitechapel Gallery.

Admission free