Hollow Earth: Art, Caves and the Subterranean Imaginary

“A glorious meditation on geology, early art and shamanic visions”, ★★★★ Hettie Judah, The Guardian

“A powerful and thought-provoking new exhibition”, Helen Gordon, Apollo

Dark, dangerous and unstable, caves are places of visions and experiences both sacred and profane. Hollow Earth is a major thematic art exhibition bringing together a wide range of responses to the image and idea of the cave. It includes painting, photography, sculpture, and video, as well as objects from RAMM’s collection, from ancient history through to modern and contemporary art.

For thousands of years these portals to the deep past have captivated artists, and as society has evolved artistic responses have also shifted. Following 19th-century discoveries of rock paintings, caves have been imagined as spaces of revelation, providing clues to the origin of our collective impulse to produce and display images. After World War II artists came to associate the cave with the primordial creative space and a refuge from the atomic era. Today, in an age of ecological breakdown, caves are portals to both the deep past and troubled futures, places where species and time intermingle.

© Caragh Thuring. All Rights Reserved, DACSArtimage 2023. Image courtesy Thomas Dane Gallery, London. Photo Ben Westoby

Devon holds a unique place in history as the birthplace of cave-hunting, declared by William Pengelly, the Victorian pioneer of systemic cave research in England. The county contains some of the UK’s most important prehistoric cave deposits. Objects from RAMM’s collection will be on display including a selection of extinct animal bones and antiquities found in caves from around the world. Spanning works by more than 30 artists, the exhibition descends into the depths to consider questions of thresholds, darkness and prehistory.

The exhibition is divided into five sections and echoes the journey into a cave, starting at the threshold and ending in the depths. Hollow Earth features major works by the Victorian painter Sir Joseph Wright of Derby, famous Surrealist René Magritte, abstract artist Henry Moore, contemporary filmmaker Michael Ho, and Guyanese expressionist painter Aubrey Williams, as well as new commissions including large-scale watercolour paintings from Chioma Ebinama and a film installation by Lydia Ourahmane.

Hamed Abdalla, Lee Bontecou, Brassaï, Center for Land Use Interpretation, Steven Claydon, Matt Copson, Juan Downey, Chioma Ebinama, Mary Beth Edelson, Barry Flanagan, Ilana Halperin, Frank Heath, Ed Herring, Michael Ho, Peter Hujar, Athanasius Kircher, René Magritte, Santu Mofokeng, Henry Moore, Nadar, Lydia Ourahmane, Gordon Parks, Flora Parrott, Robert Smithson, Michelle Stuart, N.H. Stubbing, Caragh Thuring, Aubrey Williams, Joseph Wright of Derby.

‌Please note: this exhibition contains a laser artwork with flickering light, and may be unsuitable for those with epilepsy or light sensitivity.

Hollow Earth: Art, Caves and the Subterranean Imaginary is a Hayward Gallery Touring exhibition, developed in partnership with Nottingham Contemporary and in collaboration with Glucksman, Cork and RAMM.

This exhibition was made possible as a result of the Government Indemnity Scheme. RAMM would like to thank HM Government for providing Government Indemnity, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and Arts Council England for arranging the indemnity.

Image: Unknown photographer, Elisabeth Pauli at work in Northern Spain, 1936 © Frobenius-Institut, Frankfurt am Main

Event Information

Dates and Times

  • 23 September 2023 – 7 January 2024 




Gallery 20 & 21

Event Types

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