Pretty big, pretty new and pretty popular, the Tate Modern is often derided by actual-art-fans as somewhere which is too well-known, too much of a tourist attraction, too full of schoolkids thundering around and raucously lol-ing at all the pieces with bums and boobs. Too accessible to the everyday oik who finds themselves on the South bank with half an hour to spare. If private galleries are an exclusive, prosecco-free soiree in the Kensington Roof Gardens (YES, THIS IS THE POSHEST PLACE I KNOW), then the Tate Modern is a can of K Cider in the overgrown, woodsy bit at the back of Hyde Park.
But guys, this is ok! Sometimes stuff that loads of people like is – believe it or not – GOOD! I went there last weekend, for the first time since I was a country-bumph 19-year-old up in London on a kid’s day travelcard and thinking that this was the height of capital city cool. It wasn’t, and still isn’t (the postcode doesn’t begin with the letters EC, go figure), but here are some reasons why it is a nice place to hang about for a bit. You know, even if it’s NOT raining.
1. There are some good bits of art. Obv.
Brilliant/batshit Turbine Hall stuff aside, some important, well-known and quite-famous works can be found in the permanent collection. I’m going to tell you my favourites, LUCKY. A top 5 within a top 5, how meta. To make this list an incredibly pointless exercise, I’m not going to link to them or explain why they are the best. They’re all free, go and have a look yourself. Or at least get your Google-fingers out.
1. Joan Miro – Painting (1927)
2. Magela Cordell – Figure (Woman) (1956-7)
3. Gilbert and George – Deatho Knocko (1982)
4. Max Ernst – The Entire City (1934)
5. Lee Ufan – From Line (1978)
2. Good quality idiots
Never is an idiot more in their element than when they’re opining on modern art. Some examples of the corkers I heard from two spotty Northern teenagers thinking they were cool with their New-Look-for-men blazers and accidentally long hair:
“How is it with art that like, as long as it creates some kind of response, even if it’s totally disgusting, it’s done its job?”
“HAHAHA I could have made that with the stuff at the bottom of our garden!”
“Is that…is that meant to be shit?!”
GUYS SERIOUSLY. The door is there, I will draw you a map to the nearest Wetherspoons and you can go and pay a pissed homeless man to buy you a pint of Carlsberg or whatever it is kids do on a day out in London in 2012. Go to Camden Market and buy an overpriced novelty belt buckle. Superman or Batman, the choice is yours!
Except don’t, because I like to laugh at you.
3. THE TANKS ARE COOL
I have this thing where I find old, converted buildings really fascinating. I’ve never been able to put a name on this (history of architecture enthusiast? vintage building connoisseur? fucking hipster?) but whatever it is, the Tate Modern and especially its new Tanks area hits the spot. It’s where they like…made the power and shit! With all the liquid substances that I’m not sure of the genre of! Neat.
At the minute (until Oct 28) one of the exhibitions down there is The Crystal Quilt by Suzanne Lacy. The best part of this is the video documentation of a public artwork event where about 430 women over the age of 60 met in Minneapolis in 1987 and talked about what ageing meant to them. I want to say it was aww-worthy but I don’t think that was really the point. One quote that stuck with me was “I suffer a lot from no-one listening to me”. GIVE ME THE NEAREST PENSIONER, I NEED TO HUG THEM. They also moved around different tables and made patterns with their white hair and coloured tablecloths. Ok enough of this ridiculous description. Go!
4. Lots of middle-aged middle class people
Other than reminding me that I really need to call my Mum, there’s something really comforting about seeing all the middle-aged liberals sauntering round in their safe-yet-almost-quirky Clarks sandals and colourful-yet-practical Eastpak ‘day out’ rucksacks. Makes a change from being at a private gallery where there’s always a chance that your fellow viewers are terrifying besuited people who might actually want to, you know, buy shit. It also means that there are a lot of places to sit down, which is nice if you’re often lazy and/or hungover, as I would expect many of my readers to be. Ok, they make the cafe overpriced, but I’m at the packed-lunch stage of student-debt-repayment now, so this is really neither here nor there.
5. The project space
On my return visit I was looking for an exhibition called Stage and Twist by Anna Molska and Cirprian Muresan (on until Oct 15), which I had been told was in the ‘Project Space’. After about 15 minutes of lost wandering, I discovered that this was a little one-way glass box tacked on to the edge of the side entrance, with no kind of helpful sign or inviting open door. This meant that, at 2pm on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I was the ONLY person in there. It was a dream! I could read the explanatory notes at my own cripplingly slow pace without the knowledge that everyone wants me to get out of the fucking way, I actually got a go on the headphones for the video piece, and I could sit and watch the film (it’s a good one about a guy stuck in a greenhouse full of bubble foam) all the way through without feeling bad about hogging a seat. So go and hang out here. But also shhhh; accessibility and popularity have their limits yeah?