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A project to be proud of.
Tate Modern (London)
Member Name: Ariel_uk
Tate Modern (London)
Date: 29/10/01, updated on 29/10/01 (65 review reads)
Advantages: Fantastic collection, Fantastic building, Fantastic staff and services
Disadvantages: Not everything will be to everyone's taste - although I'd consider that to be an advantage
Another Millennium Project, the Tate, Britain's national collection of art since 1500, has converted this abandoned power station on the South bank into a marvellous gallery to hold it's international modern art collection. Standing opposite St Paul's cathedral, this building has long dominated that stretch of the river bank, and it is a plesure to see it put to good use, and it's grounds improved with a good planting of trees (which incidentally make a great picnic spot). One slight disadvantage of the building is that it was clearly designed to be viewed from the river, and coming from Southwark underground one gets a rather less attractive view, and fair hike around the back to get to the entrance. I can't wait for the much-maligned Millennium footbridge to open so you can approach the museum from its best side!
But what an entrance! Sloping down to a basement entrance, the architects in charge of the conversion have left the full height of the building open in the entrance creating an awe inspiring feeling of space. The galleries are lined up to the left, over five floors, and works are grouped by 'subject' rather than chronology. The four sections are Landscape/Matter/Environment: Still Life/Object/Real Life: History/Memory/Society and Nude/Action/Body - and I found that going though two sections was plenty for me in one day - as with so many of these huge collections museum fatigue can easily set in if you attempt too much. There are also separate exhibitions focusing on an ever-changing group of individual artists.
These grouping may seem pretentious, but as one who does not now a great deal about modern art I found it fascinating to see how this very traditional types of painting have developed, adapted, and been subverted by modern artists. I also felt as though I gained a better understanding of the chronology looking at linked pieces of works, rather than just the 'greatest hits'. I have to say that
a lot of the great names where not the pieces that attracted my attention, and often seeing them alongside other artists working in similar ways made the less famous artists shine!
I did not hire an audio guide, but did manage to join one of the regular free guided tours of a section, in this case Still Life / Object / Real Life, which are run each day by a team of volunteers. This was a really good way to see the section - our guide was knowledgeable and entertaining. My artist friend found some of her commentary patronising, but for a non-specialist having someone explain how using particular materials or techniques can impact on the finished piece was both interesting and informative. On the whole the collection was well labelled, and the museum also provides reading areas, and listening posts that talk in depth about a single piece throughout the collection which makes it easy for those who wish to delve deeper.
We didn't try either of the two restaurants, but the inevitable shop had an excellent range of books, and lots of not-to-tacky souvenirs, as well as the reproductions, and actual art for sale that you might expect. Perhaps because it was mid week, the museum was pleasantly uncrowded, and the facilities (toilets, cloakrooms etc) were convenient and well staffed. I'm not sure I would want to bring young childeren here, but secondary aged kids should get something from a visit. Opening hours, access information and so on can be found on their (very pink) website : http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/default.htm
Even though a good number of the exhibits left me cold, others really entranced me, and I certainly intend to return for another look.
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