Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Tate Modern needs a Gauguin crowd pleaser

Tate Modern’s Gauguin: Maker of Myth exhibition is due to open in September and cannot come too soon for me.
I so much want to rekindle my enthusiasm for Tate Modern and Gauguin is such a major artist it is difficult to imagine how the first London exhibition dedicated to the man in 50 years can fail to be a crowd pleaser.
Tate Modern has everything going for it apart from its art collection. The converted power station, which overlooks the Thames and St Paul’s Cathedral, is the perfect setting for a great art museum.
Unfortunately the majesty of the building overshadows its artworks.
Underfunded it struggles to fill the space available to it. The massive installations in the Turbine Hall chasm are hit-and-miss. For the rest, works by the masters – Picasso, Monet, Matisse, Miro, Braque etc – have to be spread thinly.
It means the collection must be displayed thematically to allow padding out the empty spaces with the second rate - the bigger the better seems to be the rule. There is something cockeyed about the museum successfully arguing for the building of an extension to house the artworks it is forced to keep in storage. I suspect rather like Arsenal it is developing a new stadium to increase visitor numbers but it will be the same old team. Let's have some of these great works on display now and pack away a few installations to make room.
It must be said entry is free to the main collection but some pricy charges attach to the special exhibitions.
Yesterday saw me at the Tate Modern catching up with the Arshile Gorky retrospective, which closes on May 3rd. Gorky Рan Armenian émigré to the US Рhad a tragic life and was associated with various important American art movements and artists in the first half of the 20th century.
The Gorky exhibition is just too big. By the time a viewer, at least this one, had got passed the artist’s derivative early work there was little patience left to focus on the man’s late flowering.
Too many of Tate Modern’s temporary shows are like this one – fascinating art history but little else to raise the short hairs on the back of the neck. I expect the Gauguin show to feed the heart as much as the brain

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