Tate Modern

December 17, 2007 at 2:50 pm | Posted in General, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Quite a few Saturday nights ago I went to Tate Modern (it’s open late on Friday and Saturday) night with free entry unless it’s a special exhibit. On this particular night none of the exhibits interested me so I only made my way through the standard gallery. One of the notable features of the Modern at the moment is Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth or otherwise known as that giant crack in the floor. The basic premise of this giant crack running the length of the Tate’s floor is to highlight division between peoples. I’m not opposed to the message or the method of application however what was most curious was the reaction of the onlookers. Generally they just seemed surprised to see a crack in the floor. The BBC and The New York Times have pieces outlining the contrasting opinions of the crack. I’m just glad it wasn’t an Australian who fell down/in/over it.

The standard gallery is laid out in a linear progression but generally focusing on one theme or another (e.g poetry and dream). Within each gallery there is generally quite a bit of scope to wander around and take your time to look around all the different artwork. Sometimes there might be a bit of crush of tourists thus reducing the time you have to ponder a piece but as yours truly isn’t an art aficionado this didn’t pose a significant problem.

As to be expected from any modern art gallery there are a variety of mediums employed by the artists to convey the spirit of their work and message. Sometimes I’m completely bewildered by what message is being said and I feel daft and a fraud for walking in the door and at any moment a curator will march me out for invading this space of culture. Fortunately, with people like me in mind most of the art has a small description detailing the purpose of the work and artist.

The Tate also features a variety of cafes and there is also a balcony overlooking the Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s which is quite cathartic to stand and watch the world go by. Presumably if you go on a busy day you may have the completely opposite reaction to standing out on the balcony!

The Tate is interesting and varied and it was certainly miles and kilometres ahead of Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Even so, I couldn’t help but get bored by it all. Or is the better word overwhelmed? There is a lot of art to cover and process so perhaps I was just fatigued by it all – but in a good way?

Once again I’m caught in the mental trap of not knowing if I like something because I find it informative and engaging or only because I think that’s the reaction I should have. Regardless, as with any review of an artistic institution if you already like modern art go to the Tate (you don’t even need my recommendation do you?) and if you’re not sure about it or want to expand your artistic horizons then why not go, give it a shot and maybe learn something about art/ yourself in the process.

National Gallery

December 16, 2007 at 2:45 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | 1 Comment
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Writing this post seems to have taken almost as long as the walk around the UK’s National Gallery. First off I’d like to thank everyone for visiting despite the lack of any new content and will try and get through some of the backlog as quickly as possible.

And now onto the gallery.

Obviously if you like art (non-contemporary) then the national gallery is the place for you in London. Unless of course your preference is for portraits in which case right next door is the National Portrait Gallery. The national gallery is located at the top of Trafalgar Square looking down on Admiralty Arch and down towards the Palace of Westminster (Big Ben etc). At this time of year you’ll also find the city’s main Christmas Tree. Apparently this is an annual gift from Norway in thanks for the efforts of the British during World War II.

Entry is free although they do request a small donation (special exhibits may carry a charge). Upon entry, as with so many other places, you can purchase an audio guide, grab a map or just head straight in. Now, normally I’m all for an audio guide to explain things for me and hold my hand so to speak through the exhibit. After all I am lazy. While art generally poses an intellectual morass for me I held of on the guide so I could work on more efficiently getting through the sheer size of the galleries on offer.

And there certainly were a load of galleries which spanned medieval to turn of the century art. These are predominantly spread across the one level but there is also a relatively small and dull gallery underneath near the cafes and main bathrooms. What an endorsement!

The ancient works appear to be almost exclusively religious based – indicative of the funding and power structures of the era – although, honestly, boredom began rushing in after seeing Jesus and the Saints being religious and/or being killed/ born etc in a variety of forms. The capacity to rework the same theme in a myriad of ways is admirable and interesting and yet I will not deny once, twice or even thrice that I was over it sooner rather than later. Luckily the Renaissance came around and apparent complete obsession with this artwork was replaced by classical icons, portraits and stills.

As I progressed through the gallery it felt as though I was becoming more aware of the evolving use of colours, forms and materials but at the same time there were ‘older’ portraits which appeared less sophisticated than their predecessors. I have to give the benefit of the doubt and assume that this was a nostalgic piece and/or that I just don’t get it. Really either explanation works for me.

The greater diversity in subject matter opens up opportunities to both the artist and the viewer. In the latter’s case there are just more options to find a piece you’ll be engaged by. Personally I found myself favouring the city scenes, probably in reflecting the romanticism of city life I’ve associated to moving to the big(ger) city. Granted in this example the women are all going to be martyred…

Whether it’s sunflowers, horses, battleships, ancient godsportraits or Jesus there will be something to capture your eyes for at least a fleeting moment. If art isn’t your thing then the gallery may only be worthwhile on a rainy day but if you are an art lover then you’ll need to put aside three or four hours at a minimum.

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