Bait and Switch

It has been an emotional week as the general not-quite-year-end exhaustion continues.

The good news that I’ve been given money to employ a research assistant was rather tempered by having to do it all right now, but initial forays into the archives unveiled a document that required checking out before we could proceed. (I shall write about it here in due course.) The rather convenient idea of going on Monday was upended by the archive’s opening hours and so we ended up there yesterday.

And thus it was not until 2.25 that I hit HS1 for St P. and the Thameslink to Blackfriars to catch the opening of the Tate extension.


In fact, I got there for 3.50, ten minutes before opening, and joined the queue that was just past the top of the ramp. We shuffled into the Turbine Hall (which I think has Thomas Schutte on display and one of Ai Weiwei’s trees), down the ramp (which may have lost the ghost of Shibboleth, the crack drilled and filled in a decade ago) to the Tanks (a new space open for a couple of months a few years ago).

I’d been sceptical of the development, not so much because of the nature of modern art, but of the damage potentially done to Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s design. The extension is brick, and clearly no pastiche or imitation, but will take time to settle in. In any case, architectural phalluses have ringed the original footprint, of which more in a second.

My instinct was to go to the viewing platform — floor ten, which has an express lift although initially it could only make it to nine and the stairs. (The interior of the extension has the luxury of swirling staircases. This one is narrower.) And of course, the view is fantastic, 360, across London. I hit a rainstorm, but even so.


And most amusingly, there are the new flats being built, with show flats that are in Awfully Awfully Good Taste, and may well offer a soap opera.


Certainly a lot of sniggers. I assume the blinds will come down.

And then, one says, let’s go do some art. Three floors, mostly geared to the broadly sculptural, and whilst I deliberately slid over the surfaces, very little blew me away. There are rooms I will go back to and linger in, but post-1960 sculpture and performance art is the stuff that perhaps risks bringing out the philistine suspecting the emperor’s tailor.

I think I’ve seen the installation with the beach and macaws at Liverpool Tate, and there, as here, there is a long spiel about the macaws being cared for. I was uneasy.

But the highlight — aside from the City of Couscous — was the Artists Room on Louise Bourgeois.


I recall the criticism of the new Tates in 2000 — the division of Britain and Modern into four zones seemed arbitrary and potentially obscuring gaps in collections. Over the years it has come good. I’m sure the same will be true of the new extension.

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