On Friday March 17th, I visited Tate Modern, a modern art museum in London. I really enjoyed both the artwork and organization of the museum—it was like its creators had done their best to make the space as accessible and interesting as possible. It felt like “modern art museum for beginners.” The effect was really welcoming. For example, the museum began with a collection called “Start.” A sign on the wall offered some guidance:
“You don’t have to like all the art. You might see artworks that make you question what art is. It could help if you look closely and think about:
What is your first reaction to the work?
Why does it make you feel or think like that?
What is it made of?
Why has the artist chosen those materials?
Does the size of the work affect your experience of it?
What do you think the work is about?”
I believe it was Sarah Norton who called the art world a “status-phere.” In an environment that often feels uppity and exclusive, especially to non-members like myself, Tate Modern’s obvious effort to make all of its visitors engaged was extremely refreshing. Their guided questions were also helpful on a very logistical level—they gave me a starting point from which to evaluate a lot of different work.
One of my favorite pieces within “Start” was “The Snail,” a collage made by Henri Matisse in 1953. As Matisse aged it became more difficult for him to paint, so he began collaging. I think the snail’s color, size, and abstraction make it such a fun and playful piece. It immediately reminded me of “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” a storybook I used to read as a kid. Tate Modern offered another helpful question on the wall beside the large work: “What happens when two colors are next to each other?” I felt encouraged to continue exploring the art from new angles.
Another of my favorite discoveries at Tate Modern was the Guerrilla Girls. According to the museum, “the Guerrilla Girls are an anonymous activist group who highlight discrimination in the art world.” They primarily focus on sexism. Tate Modern had a number of works by the Guerilla Girls, but my favorite was “Guerrilla Girls’ 1986 Report Card” in which the group ranked galleries based on their inclusion of female artists. Like all of their work, it is original, funny, and powerful. I look forward to keeping track of them in the future.
It was also very cool to see work by Nam June Paik after learning about him in class so recently. “Bakelite Robot” was a cute robot-statue constructed using five monitors and radios. In the modern era, his bulky tech-pieces appear steampunk-esque. I found Paik’s work similar to that of Cildo Meireles, who has an enormous tower of radios in Tate Modern. Meireles describes “Babel” as “a tower of incomprehension,” and I think it communicates the overwhelming nature of modern media.
In short, I loved my time at Tate Modern and absolutely plan on returning.