Tate Modern

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Tate Modern

I love visiting art galleries in the summer. They’re lovely and cool when it’s hot outside. I popped into the Tate Modern one Sunday afternoon before going to the Globe. I’ve been before, but these days I don’t normally visit except to see the odd special exhibition. I decided to take another look at the permanent collection.

Welcome to Tate Modern

Tate Britain had been running for several years when the Tate Trustees announced their intention to create a new gallery for international modern art in London. The former Bankside Power Station was chosen as the site and the gallery opened in 2000. Recently, an extension to the gallery was unveiled, the Blavatnik Building at the rear (the original building is known as the Boiler House).

Turbine Hall

I entered the gallery via the River Entrance and came upon the Turbine Hall. This is one of the most impressive and iconic parts of the museum, its vast space playing host to a variety of installations. It’s also a lovely place to be during hot weather, as it’s nice and cool.

Thames

I worked my way through the various rooms in the Boiler House. Frankly many of them reminded me of how much I tend to dislike modern art, but there were a few gems, such as Salvador Dali’s lobster phone, pictures by Henri Matisse and Walter Sickert and sculptures by Edgar Degas. Rooms focus on themes such as ‘Artist and Society’, ‘Materials and Objects’, and ‘New Acquisitions’.

Blavatnik Building

I made my way over to the other side in order to explore the new extension, known as the Blavatnik Building. This was impressive but best thing about it is the roof terrace which offers great views over London (and also, infamously, into neighbouring flats).

View from the Tate Modern extension

Truthfully, modern art isn’t really my thing, but if you are a fan then the Tate Modern is a great place to go. For everyone else, it’s still worth visiting for the views.

FACTS

Address: Bankside, London, SE1 9TG

Website: tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern

Opening Hours: 10am-6pm Sun-Thurs, 10am-10pm Fri and Sat

Prices: Free (there is a charge for special exhibitions)

Magnum Photos Now: New Approaches to the Archive

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I went to this New Approaches to the Archive talk, part of Magnum Photos Now, a series of lectures about Magnum Photos in this year of their 70th anniversary, because I work in the field of libraries and archives and was interested to learn more about a photographic archive. I expected the talk to be more about the archives themselves, but actually the evening was fascinating even though it wasn’t really what I had expected.

The evening was made up of two talks. The first was delivered by Diane Dufour, director of Le Bal, Paris, who recounted her experiences with exploring the Magnum Photo archives and exploring the concepts behind the photos taken, as well as looking at the differences in opinions of the photographers involved. One section was particularly telling, with pictures of Jewish people settling in Israel, while another photographer’s work showing displaced Palestinians was not published anywhere.

Dr Mark Sealy, curator and cultural historian, then talked about the Eurocentric gaze of typical photography archives and made the important point that the first photographs appeared at the same time as slavery was just coming to an end in the UK – as part of a wider point that a photo shows just one aspect of the world at a particular time. He showed us photographs by and of black people during the twentieth century and emphasised the importance of having diversity among the people who are able to search the archives in the first place.

As someone who works in the field of libraries and archives, the talk was an interesting look at the varied uses which can be made of those archives, and their importance in terms of culture and history.

Secret Cinema presents: Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge!

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Entrance to Montmartre

Entrance to Montmartre

I’d never been to a Secret Cinema event, although I’d heard of them. It was always at the back of my mind as something I’d like to do, but I never got around to it… until they announced Moulin Rouge! as the next film, at which point I knew I would just HAVE to go. This modern classic, released in 2001, happens to be one of my favourite films of all time.

I ended up going by myself – at first I was nervous at the prospect, until I reminded myself that I’ve been to plenty of immersive theatre alone in my time, and this probably wouldn’t be that different. As the day approached, I visited the website, filled in all the forms I needed to and gathered my outfit together. You are meant to register with the website once you’ve bought your ticket and you are allocated a character, complete with a backstory and outfit guidelines. My character was Nina Boucicault, a comedian. Here I hold my hands up and frankly admit I completely ignored my character’s suggested outfit. It involved trousers, but I haven’t worn trousers for years, and I wasn’t going to start now.

Full-length outfit photo

I don’t know what it says about me that I didn’t actually have to make any special purchases at all in order to dress up. I wore a dress I got from ASOS (mega sale bargain) a couple of years ago, with a corset over the top. I took a fan (that I think came from Accessorize) and wore my ‘She Walks In Beauty’ earrings from Alchemy Gothic.

Close-up

I got changed in the toilets at work (classy) and then I had to get the tube to Canning Town station. Now I was a bit nervous about the prospect of having to get on the tube with all those commuters, but one of the reasons I love London is that no one pays any attention to you on the Underground (unless you’ve got a dog. Everyone loves dogs), so no one looked at me twice the whole way there. At the station, I began to see other people dressed in a similar way to me, so I knew I was in the right place.

The venue was really close to the station. It was supposed to be top secret, but to be honest, any locals or anybody passing through would notice the queue of people building up at around 6pm. We didn’t have long to wait, we were soon invited to enter the world of the Moulin Rouge. No phones or photos allowed, naturally.

Wow. Inside it was incredible, like stepping into another world. There were bars and storefronts, cafes and stalls, all designed to draw you in to the fin de siècle world in which the film is set. Costumed actors added to the atmosphere, and sometimes it was hard to tell the actors from the ordinary ticket-holders. I only saw one person without costume, and I felt quite sorry for her as she really stood out!

Everyone was so friendly. I didn’t talk to many people – I didn’t need to – for most of the event, but I got chatting to people in the queue to get in and in the ladies’ loos, and I even danced with some people at one point. There’s something about immersing yourself in something like this that makes you forget yourself and act much more confident than usual – I guess that’s true for me, anyway.

I spent the time before the film started just wandering around, exploring as much as I could, and sampling the drinks on offer (which included absinthe). I also won a bet on some lesbian wrestling (don’t ask). There were performances and songs and I was almost sorry when it was time for the film to start.

Almost, that is. There was still loads going on while the film was showing, with actors performing key scenes in front of the screen. I never did see Moulin Rouge! at the cinema, as no one wanted to go with me and at sixteen I was much less inclined to do things by myself than I am now, so it was so good to actually see the movie on the big screen.

By the time it finished I didn’t want to leave. I’d had SUCH a good time and it was an unforgettable experience. I wonder what Secret Cinema will do next year?

Design Museum

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Head of Invention, Eduardo Paolozzi

Head of Invention, Eduardo Paolozzi

The Design Museum has undergone a pretty impressive transformation lately – it’s moved venue. Originally based in Shad Thames near London Bridge, it recently took over the old Commonwealth building on High Street Kensington, opening only a few months ago.

Ceiling

The building itself is pretty impressive. Located on a busy high street, it has an appealing modern entrance and is hugely striking inside. Photographs on the mezzanine illustrate the progress of the transformation. Like many museums in London, the Design Museum is made up of a mixture of free permanent exhibitions and temporary paid exhibitions, with something to suit every taste; there’s a café, restaurant and gift shop too.

Wall of designs

The major free exhibition is called Designer Maker User, and it looks at examples of good design throughout modern history, from furniture to games consoles to road signs. The Tube map makes an appearance, not to mention typewriters and computers.

Designer

Maker

User

The second free exhibition I saw was Cartier in Motion, which looked at the history of Cartier. Sponsored by the brand, it is in many ways a commercial exhibition, but it was informative and interesting, even if it didn’t convince me that I need a Cartier watch.

Design Museum

The two temporary exhibitions currently are Imagine Moscow, in the basement, and California: Designing Freedom, on the ground floor. I visited one and not the other; it’s handy to be able to choose what you want to see. There’s a rolling programme of paid temporary exhibitions, reason to go back again and again.

Design Museum

The Design Museum is definitely a worthwhile place to visit, should you be interested in this kind of thing. The free exhibition is wide-ranging enough to attract attention and the range of temporary exhibitions is certainly promising.

FACTS

Address: 224-238 Kensington High Street, London, W8 6AG

Website: designmuseum.org

Opening Hours: 10am-6pm daily

Prices: Free

Imagine Moscow – Design Museum

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Design Museum

I’ve always had an interest in Russia, so when I visited the Design Museum recently I made sure to check out their exhibition Imagine Moscow. The exhibition, like so many this year, marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution, and explores Moscow as it was imagined by a new generation of architects and designers in the 1920s and early 1930s. The projects envisaged by them never materialised, but they remain testaments to the ambition and vision of the new regime.

Imagine Moscow exhibition

The projects explored include aviation, communication and industrialisation, using artwork, propaganda and architectural drawings. I was particularly struck by the vision of communal living, with its strict timetables laid out for each worker of the Soviet state. I was torn between admiration for the desire to ensure every person had ample time for recreation and exercise, and horror at the tightly regulated nature of every minute of the day.

One of the most fascinating projects, for me, is the Palace of the Soviets. This, the proposed centre of Soviet administration in Moscow, was imagined as a colossal edifice in the centre of the city, with a gigantic statue of Lenin on top. The nineteenth-century Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on the proposed site was demolished in preparation for work to begin, but the building never got off the ground (literally). Eventually the site became a public swimming pool before a replacement cathedral in the original design was built.

I found the exhibition to be an interesting exploration of what might have been, and a positive introduction to the Design Museum’s new site.