After the relative disappointment of my trip to the National Gallery, I returned to more familiar territory: Tate Modern. I’ve been a member of the Tate almost since it opened, but this trip was one I was particularly looking forward to, as it was my first chance to see the newly-opened Rothko exhibition.
The Rothko room at the Tate has always been my favourite part of the gallery, so the chance to see an expanded exhibition, grouping them together for the first time with the other paintings originally designed to go in the restaurant at the Seagram building in New York was something I definitely didn’t want to miss. I find it hard to put into words exactly why I like his work so much, I just know they bring out quite a strong emotional response in me. There’s been a fair bit of criticism about the way the work has been hung (apparently in line with Rothko’s wishes, with low light, against off-white walls, and relatively high up on the wall) but to me it just seemed to enhance the power.
As well as the main room, there were several other rooms featuring other examples of his later, darker work – one of which had a series of paintings that were entirely black, which I loved. (Does this mean I’m going emo?). There’s also a little section where they show close-ups of sections of work as seen under UV light, which really shows up the complexities of the paintings, each one made up of numerous layers of brushstrokes running in different directions.
While I knew I’d love the Rothkos, I had no idea what to expect from the other main exhibition, focusing on Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles. As it was free (as a member), there was nothing to lose by popping in – and I’m glad we did, it turned out to be brilliant. In parts thought-provoking, serious, playful and subversive, it’s one of the most fun I’ve been to. Best of all were the more interactive bits – walking across layers of broken glass (‘Through’) was a strangely disconcerting experience; doing the same over 600,000 1p coins (‘Mission/Missions’) fun – until we got told off by the guard (how were we to know we could walk on the glass but not the coins??).
Finally we headed down to the Turbine Hall to see the latest exhibit in the Unilever Series, TH.2058 by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster. And quite frankly it’s rubbish. Probably my least favourite so far (just beating my previous least-liked, Doris Salcedo’s ‘Shibboleth’, aka the Crack). It’s based around a distopian vision of the future. Being a bit of a sci-fi nerd, this should’ve been right up my street. But really – some metal bunk-beds, a series of clips of old sci-fi films and some giant reconstructions of London’s famous outdoor sculptures? As distopias go it’s pretty silly. You’d do better to pick up any of the similarly-themed books scattered across the beds and read them instead, which is what most of the visitors in fact seemed to be doing.
All in all a much more rewarding day than the trip to the National.