Thursday, 25 February 2010

White Walls

Apologies for the scant posting - the toad work is squatting on my life especially heavily these days. However I did manage an evening out last night - albeit a work-related one. It was a do in the Saatchi Gallery on the King's Road, in what used to be the headquarters of the Duke of York's Regiment - a fine building, now gutted, stripped and painted stark white in the approved modern art gallery manner. I had a bit of a mooch around, and was struck chiefly by how lost and insignificant most of the artworks seemed in those vast white spaces. They looked more like decor than anything, and pretty bland decor - well, either bland or ugly. No doubt this is an unfair and hasty judgment, but my brief experience of this gallery left me dispirited and vaguely annoyed - which is certainly never the way I feel after a visit to, say, the National Gallery or the Courtauld or Dulwich or even Tate Britain (Tate Modern is another matter). I wonder if galleries of the Saatchi/White Cube kind might one day come to seem as bewilderingly awful as those plush Victorian galleries hung with acres of sentimental genre scenes did to the next generation. Oddly, though, Charles Saatchi himself not so long ago attacked the white wall gallery concept as 'antiseptic' and 'dictated by museum fashion' - a rare case of the pot calling the kettle white?


  1. Tate Modern never lets you down as long as you don't go in.

    White spaces: isn't it enjoyable watching the avant garde slip into history?

  2. My wife refers to the majority of the art on the walls of these white spaces as "hotel art": the sort of stuff that will make a boutique hotel look frightfully sophisticated - in their minds - but is as shallow as a puddle.

  3. No need to apologise, Nige - compared to the Yard at the mo you're Andrew Sullivan.

    I've always enjoyed walking around echoing white spaces. This is the primary reason I patronise the Arnolfini. The art is generally by the bye or a vague irritant.

  4. Am inclined to agree with Gaw about the Tate Modern - mainly because it's usually packed with grungy types doing superficial, interactive stuff. Ghastly.

  5. Are all these modern galleries the same shade of white or are there subtle differences? You'd think the curators might want to differentiate themselves a little, even if only by 0.01 per cent.

    I was at Tate Modern on a Sunday ten days ago. It was packed with folks from about two years old to eighty-two. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and whether they were there to look at the art or just hang out doesn't really matter. These places do show us a face of Britain, even the reflection in the puddle is sometimes downright strange.

  6. I agree Mark. My comment was as praising of TM and its environs - we have some lovely times down there - as it was critical of the often puerile art in its permanent collection (it does occasionally host some good shows though).

  7. And, of course, I meant that the Tate Modern offers an inclusive environment where everyone can enjoy large white spaces, buy postcards, sandwiches, plastic crocodiles, queue to use the loo and feel perfectly at home amongst the artworks and installations (most of which are incomprehensible to any of us, but have cost a fortune and are deemed to be cool...) Some pieces of conceptual art and exhibitions are more palatable than others - it's all a matter of personal taste. Ask Brian Sewell.

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  9. Nige, Brit's comment reminds me - tell Yard to start blogging again, doesn't matter what about, but i recommend:

    cowboy boots
    trampling snakes
    black van of death
    white van of life (OJ)
    Thomas Browne, spurious knighthoods
    human sacrifice
    drinking blood out of skulls
    laughter and Valkyries
    fighting your friends on the street with an axe
    getting arrested by the police for fighting
    why prisoners should have the right to blog from jail
    more on cowboy boots, also cowboy food

  10. I'm seeing him this week, Ghost, and shall urge him to return to the healthy life of the blood-drinking, axe-wielding, snake-trampling cowboy. I fear he has lost his way...
    I like 'hotel art', Recusant - that's exactly it (well, for most of it).

  11. I have to be a dissenting voice in defence of TM. I love the theatricality of the huge industrial interior - it has a curiously uplifting effect - I must walk tall there - and the expansive views of the river from the upper floors - wonderful. I love the way these spaces are filled with life - visitors who might never usually go to a gallery. But mostly, for me, its a space filled with fragments of language, story, image - so many ways of perceiving the world - humanity - chaos, and at times great beauty. A glimpse into the minds of others. It's not the Nat Gall - it's another kind of animal!