Newest Review: ... with yellow brick features on its corners and along the top. On the Tyne facing side the words 'Baltic Flour Mill' are picked out in bla... more
Doesn't live up to comparisons with the Tate
Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art (Newcastle)
Member Name: abigailhiggins
Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art (Newcastle)
Advantages: Free to visit, excellent gift shop, and offers lots of events for children
Disadvantages: Not a lot of art inside
I have lived in the North East for almost 5 years, and have been meaning to go to the Baltic since I moved here. Finally, at the end of October 2009 I visited, along with my 8 year old niece. I had been asked to babysit her, and had searched online for things that were happening locally. I saw that the Baltic were doing free pumpkin carving so decided that we would give it a go. We travelled via the Metro, and got off at Central Station. I had been told that it's about the same distance beween that stop and Gateshead, but thought that the walk alongside the river Tyne would be more interesting. Although I printed off directions and a map we did get a little lost on our walk, and went down the wrong street. The signposts, I felt, were a little vague. Still, it didn't take more than 15 - 20 minutes to find it (as soon as you get down to the riverside you can't really miss it!). Once inside we were given a sticker with the time on that we could carve a pumpkin, which was in about an hour and a half's time. While we were waiting we went to look at the other exhibitions. At the time that we visited the pharmacy by Damian Hirst was one of the exhibitions, and we looked at that. I explained to my niece a bit about who he was and a bit about modern art, saying that somepeopl thought it was very clever, and other people thought it a bit rubbish, and it was good to go and look at art to make up your own mind. When we had seen the exhibition she told me that she was in the camp of 'It's a bit rubbish!' We looked at the other exhibitions, and I quite enjoyed one of photographs. She wasn't so keen, but I pointed out various ones and she did look and commented on them. There was also a display of artefacts such as toys, from important time sin history, which I talked to her a bit about. The exhibition that she got the most from was one in which we sat in a darkened room , with 6 large screens on the walls - 3 on one wall and 3 on another. Each screen showed a woman with her back to the camera, standing very still, while people moved all around her. They were all in different locations, but taken in a 'shopping' environment. They were interesting, and my niece enjoyed guessing where each film might have been shot, although she didn't really understand what the point of them was!
After we had seen all of the exhibitions we still had some time to kill, so went to look at the gift shop. The gift shop is lovely. I was expecting there to be quite a lot of really expensive things to buy, plus maybe a rubber and a pencil for kids. But, I was pleasantly surprised. They had a massive range, with some very expensive things but also some reasonably cheap items that would make nice gifts. My niece had some money with her, and she wanted to spend all of it, but I knew my sister had given her it in case I had needed any money to buy her lunch, or for Metro fare or things (which I wasn't going to use) so I didn't think her mum would be very pleased if she went home with just a lot of novelty items. So I said she could spend £3, and even with that fairly small amount she had a really large choice of things. So large, that we had to leave the shop in order to go and make the pumpkin - though I promised we could go back again afterwards.
The staff at the pumpkin making were very organised, and had cleared away from the previous group before we went in, and everything we would need had been laid out on tables. The room was also well decorated for Halloween, so it felt like a special event, even though we were just cutting up a pumpkin. The staff offered help if it was needed, and once the pumpkin was finished gave my niece a glo-stick to light it with and a strong carrier bag to carry it home in, all for free. We were given 40 minutes to make the pumpkin, so didn't feel rushed to get out so that they could get the next group in.
Once we had finished we headed back to the shop, where, finally, my niece decided on a couple of little items, and I bought a couple of inexpensive Christmas gifts.
Overall, I didn't feel that the gallery offered that much in terms of art. There are, if I remember correctly, 6 floors, with the (very expensive) restaurant taking up the top floor, one of the floors being the space where we made the pumpkin, and another one being somewhere where we could look down at the exhibition below from above. On the floors with exhibitions, I didn't feel there was that much on each floor. I used to live near London and have visited the Tate modern a number of times. I was expecting the Baltic to be similar in terms of amount of art, but there was hardly anything in comparison. When I was a nursery nurse in London I took a group of 3 and 4 year olds around the Tate Modern, and we were there all day, but at the Baltic, with my niece, we had seen all the art in about an hour.
Having said that, the Baltic offers a lot of activities for families and children. There had been other activities happening earlier in the half term week, and I think they do other events during other school holidays. Also, when I was looking it up on the Internet I think I read that there is a toddler art class for 2-4 year olds on a Tuesday each week, and an art club for older children on Saturday mornings, so if/when I have kids I will definitely be looking into those things.
Also, the gift shop was suberb, and I will be visiting the Baltic again, purely to visit the shop!
Summary: We had a good day but think we would have been disappointed if we hadn't been going to an activity
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