I have heard of the Tate Modern all my life. The hub for modern art in this day and age, but when I found out there was more than one “Tate,” I was surprised. The Tate Britain is a museum devoted to British art through history whether it be modern, religious, or sculpture.
The building was stunning and spanned several floors of stark white walls allowing the art to pop. As a visitor, you start at the bottom in the 1200s. I’m actually quite surprised now how much art I have seen from hundreds and hundreds of years ago. It will never cease to amaze me that so many works of art have survived and now hang on walls for countless visitors to see.
I did snap a few pictures of artwork that moved me and made me do a double take. Usually, if a piece strikes me for more than the five seconds it takes me to scan the canvas, I take a picture. Obviously, it caught my attention for a reason. One picture I took was of The Cinema from 1920. You can see in the background, soldiers are watching a black and white silent film. The description read that the films of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton were very popular to lift the spirits of Britons during WWII.
I hate to say this, but I always forget that Britain sustained heavy action during WWII. Maybe it’s because America didn’t get nearly as much damage as the whole of Europe. I’m not trying to minimize Hawaii at all, I’m just trying to say that being in Texas, I have not experienced heavy bombing or can do and see war damage around Austin. So many of the pictures reflected how the artists dealt with their emotions and surroundings during that time, much like my earlier post on Hannah Hoch.
The museum didn’t seem very big for being the legendary Tate Britain. Each room was dedicated to a whole decade. I realized that there obviously was much more than what was showcased in this building, but it made me wonder what made these particular pieces worthy of being in this institution.
Remember when I wrote about Martin Creed? How could you forget, right? The artist who had the sick video. Well, he had his own room dedicated to Lights Turning On/Off in the Tate Britain. This made me laugh a bit because I guess I didn’t see the impact of this piece enough to have it in two galleries I had been to in the last month. And it was award winning!
There was a rather large selection of sculptures by Henry Moore. They were really beautiful and overtook almost three rooms. What I read about them was very interesting. At the time Henry Moore was becoming more prevalent in the art scene, the curator at the time was adamant about not ever having Moore in his gallery. The phrase, “over my dead body,” may have been included. Well, I suppose after that gentleman passed away, Moore had a field day getting on the board and filling a few rooms with his works.
This brings us to the anticipated sequel: the Tate Modern. The first thing I noticed about the Tate Modern was how not modern the building was as it was sandwiched next to some beautiful and new buildings. The building was actually quite hideous. They seem to be going through some updates, but for the time being, it was brown, imposing, and rather empty resembling a bunker more than a museum.
That was the other thing that surprised me. For being the grand, famous Tate Modern, they had a huge building with just four large sections open for free admission.
The last thing that was, dare I say again, surprising, was the artwork. It was absolutely stunning and quite a collection. There were several Picasso paintings that were out of this world, Rothko had an entire room to himself, and I couldn’t believe I got a chance to see a painting from my favorite painter: Jackson Pollack. I stared at the Pollack piece for several minutes, photobombing (unintentionally) several tourist pictures. But I didn’t care. He’s one of the few artists I can get completely lost in.
Monet had a large Water Lilies installation which was always a favorite of my mother’s, so I took several pictures for her. Piet Mondrian‘s famous Red, Yellow, and Blue was there. I had never seen it in person. Along with another piece that caught my eye because no matter where you stood, it was a different canvas. The painting changes with each angle.
I get the concept of having a mirror installed as modern art. You become the art. The caption next to it read how to use it. As you stare into the mirror, your gaze relaxes and you become still much like how art is. A moment in time when the subject is more or less zoned out. Once you zone out yourself in front of the mirror, you become the artwork.
I thoroughly enjoyed both Tates and the little adventures it took to get to both of them. Walking away from the Tate Modern on a rather modern looking bridge, you are taken across the Thames with a gorgeous image of St. Paul’s Cathedral directly ahead. The image of the imposing building seemed like a piece of art in and of itself.
Here are some additional pictures I took from both galleries.