The last week of October 2009 was blessed with an Indian summer. I’m on my way for a walk along the Victoria Embankment all the way up to Westminster Abbey – for not venturing out on a bright day like this is nothing short of criminal in London. Starting at Goswell Road, I walked down to the famous St Paul’s cathedral, passing the infamous Barbican and the Museum of London on my way. As people relished their lunches in the courtyard of St Paul’s, I captured the magnificent structure in every possible angle, only to be distracted by a herd of people, all walking towards a grey gloomy building across the Millennium bridge. It read, FREE ENTRY – TATE MODERN.
No self respecting museum would put free entry in its NAME! Even worse, BEFORE its name! They seemed to be targeting the “It’s free! What is? Does it matter? Let’s go!” mentality! And… it worked.
Walking in through the River Entrance, I stood at Level 2 staring at the six floors above and the one floor below me. With seven floors to explore and 4 hours to closing time, I panicked. Overwhelmed with anxiety, convinced I would miss out on the most life changing pieces of art ever made by mankind, I decided to immediately come up with a plan. What is it about museums that turn me into a psychotic know-it-all wannabe I do not know, but such is the case.
A quick look at the map and I discover that levels one, two, six and seven exhibit no art. I breathe a sign of relief. Why a museum would have four floors dedicated to coffee and restrooms and three dedicated to art puzzled me, but nonetheless left me very happy.For £ 3.50 I pick up a fancy touch pad audio-visual guide, my escape from faking intelligent expressions including stares of wonderment, deep nods and occasional squints while facing a masterpiece. All equipped and excited, I head off to Level 3 – Material gestures, the section on your left if you climb up the stairs!
Level 3 – Material Gestures hosted post war American and European art with works of famous painters like Francis Bacon (really weird disfigured human painting), Anish Kapoor (one pretty looking open ended spherical structure), Paul McCarthy (really really really weird psychosexual videos, I dare not look) and our very own Claude Monet! How Monet’s water lilies made the transition from ‘impressionism’ to ‘modern’ one cannot tell, but then again since he actually painted 260 Water Lilies it’s only fair that every museum gets one!
The right wing on Level 3 – Poetry and Dream, featured fascinating surrealism – art used simply as a means to represent deeper philosophical ideas. The whole concept is quite intriguing and the results are quite unexpected and surprising.
A classic light bulb joke :)
Q: How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?
Level 4 wasn’t free and was not visited by me! Except for a quick visit to its terrace where I caught a glimpse of St. Paul’s at dusk.
Level 5 – States of Flux was filled with cubism, futurism and art movements I’d never heard of. The most interesting piece though in this section was the sculpture ‘The Kiss’ by Auguste Rodin depicting lovers Francesca – who falls in love with her husband’s brother Paolo from Dante’s Divine Comedy. Finally, the wing, Energy and Process, was the most modern and recent of them all with art from the 1970s. The pieces were interesting, though not quite breathtaking, or may be I am simply not a fan of the living artist? As random domestic thoughts crossed my mind, I heard the audio-visual guide beep. Was this a sign that the museum was closing its doors? It was strangely a low battery warning, something I had never experienced with traditional (read non-modern-audio-only) guides! All the fancy pictures and touch screens (read technology) had to come at a cost!
I made my way down and returned the instrument, admittedly a little embarrassed for having exhausted the battery! Having collected my driver’s license I finally headed for the most crowded room in most museums, ‘The Museum Shop’ to buy some lovely postcards to take home with me!