Cities in Dust
The ruin of classical and biblical cities was a frequent theme among connoisseurs of ruination in the eighteenth century, but the modern city was pictured too, and London has often been the object of the ruin-loving gaze. In 1737, Richard Wilson painted London’s Inner Temple after a fire had destroyed Crown Office Row. In recent decades the ruins of modernism have seemed paradoxically eloquent for many artists, especially the remains of Britain’s architectural, urban and social reconstruction after the Second World War. Jon Savage photographed bleak streets and underpasses in the 1970s, Rachel Whiteread the demolition of a high-rise estate in Hackney in the mid 1990s; and in the same decade Keith Coventry’s paintings and sculptures commented on the social ideals once embodied by such estates.