I absolutely hate the Tate Modern Art Gallery. Absolutely hate it. I know hate is a strong word, but I’m not going to relinquish that statement and I’ll tell you why. First off is the building itself. It is absolutely repulsive–a giant square brick building with a brick tower in the center that hovers over the river skyline like some sort of repressive beast. By the looks of that building, it should be called the Tate Modern Paper Mill … maybe the Tate Modern Insane Asylum. It’s a shame, too because the skyline on that side of the river is gorgeous save for the eyesore that is the Tate Modern. And don’t even get me started on the inside! Just vast empty space: tall, bare white walls, dirty wood floors, black pipes and beams in the ceiling offset by fluorescent shop lighting. Ugh, the whole space disgusts me.
And then there’s the art exhibits themselves; I actually prefer to call them “art exhibits.” Just because you give a room an abstract name does not entitle you to line the walls and floors with garbage and call it an exhibit. Structure and Energy. OK, this looks like a canvas with a rip in it. Literally a bare, ripped canvas in a frame. And the list goes on and on. There are balls of chicken wire, an empty wooden box, huge sheets with red, circular brushstrokes that looked like a 2-year-old had painted them. My favorite was the mirror. One artist simply attached a mirror to a canvas. Literally, the only redeeming feature to a majority of these pieces is the little panel next to them which explains that, “Yes, this is indeed art.” The mirror, for example, “The artist wanted to question the notion that art is an interpretation of reality, and turn the focus instead on the viewer themselves.” OK, this is still a mirror hanging on a canvas. And this is still an art gallery. How much did you guys pay for this? I hate to sound rude, but if that gallery contains modern art, then that makes me a modern genius.
What bothers me the most, though, is all the people marching through the rooms like ants with their cameras and just eating it up. Standing, taking pictures of a wooden beam and talking in excited, hushed tones as if they got a front row seat to the Apocalypse. I’m sure that there are some genuine art enthusiasts who see the value in a lot of this work, but it feels like a majority of these folks just eat whatever is spoon fed to them and never question the actual value of what they’re seeing. Jeez, many of the people just walk by, ignoring the actual piece almost entirely, and just snap a smart phone picture of the explanatory panel. I haven’t quite figured this maneuver out yet.
Look, I’m not saying everybody has to agree with my opinion of the Tate Modern Art Gallery. In fact, I asked my roommate Jake’s opinion and he loves it. He loves the building; he loves the space. He’s also an art major. All I’m saying is actually look at what you’re looking at! To discriminate is one of the essential functions of humanity, and if we lose our ability to do so, we’re certain to find ourselves at the mercy of someone else’s discretion.
If you like this post, I’m happy. If you hate this post, I’m happy. Whatever you do, just don’t walk by with a smartphone and take a picture. Cheers.
Lee Bartnik, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point majoring in dietetics, is blogging about his study abroad experience in London.