Tate Modern review (Oct 2013)
This is an old review Read my most recent review here
The only good thing about the Tate Modern is that it's free to get in, but there's a reason for that -- they charge you to get out. Or they should do, because they'd earn a fortune. A coke can on the street is just a piece of rubbish, but in here it's an exhibit. If they hung a sign around the light switch people would stand there with their thumbs on their chins saying how wonderful it is -- it's that kind of place. Every room you walk in is full of the Emperor's new clothes.
In the old days (bear with me while I have a rant), in the old days artists painted pictures of 'stuff'. People, places and plants. Now they paint pictures of blobs and blotches and spots. Surely one of the reasons that we enjoy art is because we recognise that the artist has got a talent that we lack. You look at a Rembrandt and you are amazed at what he has done, because it looks better than a photo. How the hell did he do that? That is amazing! It's not like that these days though. You don't even have to be able to draw. It's like a pianist playing the keys with his feet, and everyone saying he's better than Beethoven. It's all about the deeper meaning isn't it. It's got to have some special meaning behind it and who cares what it looks like. Pile up a few dead leaves and you've got yourself a powerful statement.
This next painting... I'm trying to work out what it is. Is it a bird, is it a plane? I give up with that one. Now I'm watching a little movie called "Xilitla 2010" which is just a load of leaves and trees and someone shovelling sand into a bucket.
Get five crayons and scratch about on a piece of paper for five minutes, and that is what I'm looking at now. If you gave a chimp a few paintbrushes and promised him a banana then this is what he'd come up with. But he'd probably come up with a better title than "T1937-33 1937". If my 9-year-old niece came home with that then I wouldn't even stick it on the fridge.
This is the best piece -- you'll love this. It's a big room with three long wooden boxes in it and the speakers are letting out a loud hum. In the middle is a sign which says "Only 1 visitor at a time, please queue here..." And then there is a real-life guy, just sitting on a seat staring at this sign. That is what he is paid to do. Sitting there listening to a droning hum all day, it must drive him nuts. The whole piece is called "Channel One, Channel Two, Channel Three" and is supposed to "subvert the rational forms of minimalist sculpture, imbuing them with a psychedelic change". I actually asked the guy if he was a part of the art, and he just chuckled a yes. No real words were spoken -- we just shared a little giggle together (true!).
I'll tell you what I do like about the Tate though -- it's the monumental architecture. Some of the rooms are colossal. It used to be an old power station so I guess the rooms were filled with industrial machinery. They are three stories high, some of them. Absolutely huge. And then you've got these tiny little pictures hanging on the walls like a stamp on a blanket. You've got one little picture here, a few more there, all buried against an acre of whitewashed wall.
The next level is full of sculptures -- well, I say sculpture, but it's more like chocolate blobs on a stick. Imagine that you are at work, and the workmen come in and take all the strip lights off the ceiling. Now imagine that they prop them against the wall and walk off for a tea-break. That is basically what we have in the next room -- a whole load of strip lights propped up against the wall.
More sculptures (pile of sticks propped up against the wall) and more Jackson Pollock wannabes (red squiggles dripped onto a canvas). Here's a good one... a white curtain hung on the wall called "The Penelope". This one is supposed to evoke "the tension and isolation felt by someone coping with AIDS through reference to a classical story of deferral and hope". I'm glad they told me, otherwise I might have just thought it was a curtain stuck on the wall.
I like this one too -- "Untitled 1958". This one is a black square. That's all it is. A black square. The frame is nice though. The next one mixes it up a bit, because it's a brown square with a black line in it -- "Spatial Concept Waiting". But my all-time favourite has got to be "Untitled Painting 1965" which is... wait for it... a mirror! I kid you not folks. It's just a plain mirror, the same as you'd buy in B&Q. "Viewers are confronted by themselves," it waffles on, "thereby questioning the long-held notion of painting transcending reality".
Okay, so the art is mostly !!@$%$%, but there is one saving grace -- the cafe on the 6th floor. They've got a little bar and restaurant which looks out over the Thames. And it's a great view too. You have St. Paul's straight across the river and the city skyscrapers to your right. Down below is the Millennium Bridge and people messing about on the mudflats. You're nice and high so you're almost level with the dome of St. Paul's. Now that is art. Forget all the crap on the wall downstairs, if you want to look at something truly impressive then come up to the cafe and look out the window.
So is it worth going to the Tate Modern? Well, imagine if London Zoo had run out of lions and tigers and just filled up the rest of the cages with cats, dogs, chickens and ants. That is basically what we've got here. There are plenty of names that I do recognise -- Picasso, Dali, Miro, Mondrian, Klee, Kandinsky -- but the rest is just a random assemblage of wood, wire, lightbulbs and bathroom mirrors.
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