Saturday, 5 March 2016

Tate Modern: No Change

Being a fair-minded type [outbreak of coughing and shuffling in the audience], I like to test my opinions against reality from time to time, in case something has changed that might cause me to think again. Too often, alas, this reality check merely serves to confirm my prejudice - or rather demonstrate that it is no prejudice but sound judgment.
 So it proved with Tate Modern, which I rashly revisited yesterday. I have long held that this is a very bad art gallery indeed, a dismal and dispiriting waste of a huge amount of space (to say nothing of money, and opportunity) - and I saw nothing yesterday to change my mind. The thematic arrangement of the collection is incoherent to the point of randomness, and far too many of the depressing white spaces that pass for galleries are given over to crass and joyless gigantism. I saw plenty that vaguely piqued my interest, plenty that was simply repellent, a little that was genuinely clever or well made, but - leaving aside the Rothko Room, the Richter room, and a thin peppering of real quality works - almost nothing that lifted the spirits or delivered real aesthetic pleasure. Any room of the National Gallery delivers more of those than the whole of Tate Modern. Though it has held some superb exhibitions, and I've enjoyed a few of the turbine hall installations (the current one appears to be a kind of untended allotment garden), Tate Modern seems to me a monument to failure - the gigantic failure of Modern Art, or rather its decline into a sordid, self-serving industry, a trendy branch of showbusiness. Happily there are many very good artists still at work in the world - but they are sorely under-represented in Tate Modern.

9 comments:

  1. The museum gave me a moment of pleasure a few years ago when I went to an exhibition of the work of wild-eyed Russian Marxists. In front of me two women I assumed were up in London for the day from somewhere rural scrutinised a drawing called something like Plan for a Stadium for the Ceremony of Celebration following the Smashing of Capitalism and the Bourgeoisie. Having taken in every detail, one said to the other, "Very nice", and the other nodded. "Very pretty", she agreed. I thought with glee of how furiously frustrated their bland reactions would have made the artist feel. But, yes, one half minute of amusement for one individual does not quite justify the money and effort the museum must consume

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  2. The Tate has a Richter room, goodness, I shall forthwith book a passage on the next collier heading for London. That would make it the second European museum with a dedicated room, the other is the Bonn Kunstmuseum, the odd spare corner filled in with work by his old mate, Sigmar Polke.
    The old master is still living in the upmarket Köln suburb of Hahnwald (Köln FC footballers and captains of industry.) I may have mentioned this in the past...the Corrina Belz documentary 'Gerhard Richter, Painting' gives great insight into the great man, shy, awkward, controlling and a good sense of humour. Incidentally, Hahnwald is a short distance from Brühl , the birthplace of Max Ernst, and the home of his museum.

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  3. Yes Malty, a room of Richters at present, I don't know for how long - just six paintings but quite enough to fill a room...
    http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/display/gerhard-richter

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  4. I have always found the Tate Modern disappointing. The space is impressive in a drab, utilitarian way, but the contents are suprisingly meagre, both in quality and quantity. I always leave feeling deflated. At least the members' cafe has a great view, so it's worth going just for that.

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  5. I have always found the Tate Modern disappointing. The space is impressive in a drab, utilitarian way, but the contents are suprisingly meagre, both in quality and quantity. I always leave feeling deflated. At least the members' cafe has a great view, so it's worth going just for that.

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  6. Several years ago my family and I visited the Tate whilst waiting for our show to start at the Globe.

    All I could think of the whole time was how much improved the place would be by becoming ground zero for above ground nuclear testing.

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