Tate’s Switch House A Dialogue Between Art And Space




It’s alarming to think that Tate Modern opened in 2000, firstly because it makes me feel super old, but also one wonders, what did we do before it was there? It’s become such a cultural behemoth in delivering international contemporary art, helped by an extraordinary spending spree to obtain significant pieces.

It’s weird to think that just 3 years later when I saw Saatchi’s YBA collection at County Hall, Tate, still in relative infancy, was well and truly established in its importance. A bit of a shame really for Tate Britain which was stuck for ages with the stupid Turner Prize and the contemporary stuff when it got too old to be contemporary anymore; see its rehang of recent years in which previous ultra-recent Emin and Hirst are now passed into British Hirstory (ha, I wrote Hirstory as a typo then but I’m keeping it as it makes me look smart.) Tate Modern benefits from the location, the building and the collection, and now it’s become even more amazing with the new Switch House and the shit ton of great art it’s been filled with.

I’m not going to review it as you can’t move for innumerable reviews out there gushing about how it gets so many things right: the increase in scope, both in terms of global art and a greater proportion of women artists. The naysayers who pointed out that it was extremely poor taste to erect such a massive pile of brick mashed potato (someone else’s words, not mine) that cost squillions while other institutions languish in the barren wasteland that is the current arts funding landscape, seem to be backpeddling loads now everybody loves it. Sure some critics pick holes in certain imbalances and cases where art doesn’t quite sit well with its surroundings, but then the most important thing is that the dialogue between art and space is there. Sometimes it’s more interesting when the relationship isn’t harmonious. Indeed when it rehung its major galleries several years back good old Waldemar Januszczak described it as a schizophrenic display, but it remained compelling simply because it was interesting to see how a poorly thought out idea affects the flow and meaning of a gallery. This is all besides the point: what is important here is that a new gallery of such size with a really comprehensive, diplomatic and forward thinking agenda has opened with a ton of cool stuff in it. And they chose to open its doors on the first day to school children only; what’s not to love? Go see it.

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