Saturday, June 25th 2016
We had heard that the Tate Modern was getting a brand new, and very large, extension and decided to go and take a look at it. I also discovered a new (to me, at any rate) sculptor and will show you some of her works.
The extension, which was opened earlier this month, is by Herzog and de Meuron, who were also responsible for converting what was originally the Bankside Power Station into the Tate Modern art gallery in 2000. The new wing is known officially as the Switch House but it is also often referred to in the media as the Pyramid Tower.
This view gives a better impression of the innovative design of the new tower. Its ‘folded’ design will be loved by some and hated by others but it at least accords with what is London’s most prestigious gallery of modern and contemporary art. The brickwork is merely a cladding, unnecessary to the structure but applied make the tower blend in with the older part of the building. This BBC Web page gives some information on the extension and includes a nice time-lapse video of its construction.
The entrance of the Tate Modern is the largest indoor space I recall ever seeing. Words like ‘impressive’, ‘huge’ and ‘grandiose’ seem puny in comparison. The fact that the floor slopes resolutely downwards towards the interior adds to the feelings of unreality. It is as though the building is preparing to swallow you like a whale ingurgitating krill. Unlike the krill, however, the visitor to the Tate Modern feels excitement and anticipation rather than fear.
We of course wished to ascend the tower, both for its own sake and to see the views of London available from this new vantage point. Here we ran into a little problem. I don’t know whether the management had failed to realize just what the demand would be or whether they just didn’t care but the the disorganized lift service led to a long queue and a considerable wait.
The lifts, reasonably enough in normal conditions, served all floors and went up and down between them as required by passengers without necessarily returning to the ground floor in between. This meant that we watched in frustration as the floor indicators showed the lifts going up and down between the upper floors and only occasionally reaching us on the ground floor. Often, when they did arrive, they were already nearly full with people wanting to travel between upper floors.
Security staff were on hand to direct us to lifts when places were available in them but the problem could have been solved by the simple expedient of setting aside at least one life to act as a shuttle between the ground and the top floor only. Why this obvious solution was not applied is a mystery to me.
At the top of the tower there is an open gallery where you have superb views over London. This is not the highest viewpoint in London but it is a good one. There were crowds of people already there, of course, and one had to be patient and wait for a chance to get to the edge. Happily people were good natured about it and did not hog the best spots.
In this photo, we are looking across the roof of the older part of the building, with its famous chimney, to the River Thames. (These pictures are panoramas formed by stitching two or more single frames together. They appear in reduced form here. Click on the image to see a larger version.)
Here I have zoomed in a little and you can see the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, above the riverside buildings, and, spanning the river, the Millennium Bridge, linking the Cathedral with the Tate Modern in a rather intriguing combination.
If, like me, you are both repelled and fascinated by heights, your gaze will be drawn downwards to the ground where motor vehicles seem like toys and human figures like ants.
This photo gives you some idea of the numbers of people present and competing for the best views.
One can also look down into the entrance or atrium of the gallery that I mentioned above. Near the centre you can see the tree sculpture by Ai Weiwei which, though it is quite large, is dwarfed by its surroundings.
We made a quick tour of the new gallery spaces and I am showing just a few samples. People were invited to walk about on the artwork shown above. Many found it irresistible and a novelty to do so. The three pictures shown in the slide show above are all make by stitching two or more frames together. This has led to a couple of anomalies that you might have fun spotting. There is a person who appears twice in the same picture and a gentleman whose legs have almost completely disappeared! (You might also spot ones that I have missed.)
This collection of objects together forms a work by Ana Lupas called The Solemn Process. It was initially created by the artist with the help of villagers in Transylvania, Romania. You will find more information here.
For more information on the above, part of an exhibition called Between Object and Architecture, see here.
Also part of Between Object and Architecture, this work, called The Passing Winter, by Yayoi Kusama, was the only one with which I felt any, albeit transitory connection – and for obvious reasons! More on that work here.
Opposite the Tate Modern, there is an area bearing the rather pompous name of Neo Bankside. It seems to be largely commercial and therefore of relatively little interest but for the fact that therein I made a discovery, if ‘discovery’ is not too dramatic a word for it.
What I discovered – or ‘found’, if you prefer – was a set of sculptures by an artist new to me, Emily Young. The set has been installed by a gallery called Bowman Sculpture that deals in sculpture from 1860 to the present. A number of galleries are in the habit of displaying sculptures in public spaces like this and I approve of the practice. The gallery benefits from advertising but we, the public, benefit from being able to enjoy a changing display of top class art works.
I was fascinated by these sculptures, each made of a different type of stone. The name of the stone is noted in each case along with the title of the work. I deduce from this that the stone used is of significance to the artist and I have therefore included its name under the photo.
The faces have an elemental character, reminding me of Classical sculptures but also of African and other non-European ethnic traditions.
In some cases, the features are clearly developed, though with skilful minimalism, but in others they barely emerge from the rock so that you could first see the rock without noticing the face which then seems to emerge from the background before your eyes.
This impression of a face emerging from a rock (or, possibly, melting into it) is encouraged by the fact that it is only the face that is worked. The rest of the rock is left in its original state, often rough as though broken by crowbar or dynamite from the bedrock.
This conjunction of unworked natural rock and a smoothly worked face creates a curious effect. Yet somehow, the two go together, creating a strange harmony.
This happy discovery gave the day special significance and I shall henceforth be on the look-out for more works by this artist.