Tag Archives: Tate Modern

On how London is Open and FULL of Pokemon….56/100

DSC_0512Weeks later and the pain from Brexit shows no signs of abating in London. While the rest of the country seems to have returned its attention to Celebrity Big Brother and the even more horrific reality television show that is the upcoming US election, Londoners have yet to raise their mournful heads from their hands. So much so, that our new mayor, Sadiq Khan, has taken my advice and is trying to soothe heads and hearts with art. Friday was the launch of the #LondonisOpen campaign using artists to proclaim that London is Open…to everyone. As I adore my new Mayor, who was formerly my MP, I will quote him at length “Art is a powerful way to say London is open — open for business, open to ideas, and open to the people from across the world who have chosen to live and work here. London’s world-renowned arts and cultural activity is testament to the success of London as an international city. We’ve asked some of the world’s leading artists to help us communicate the simple but vital message that despite uncertainties around Brexit, London will remain an international city.”

The first poster unveiled, on Friday, at Southwark Tube station, is by artist Richard Shrigley. A simple message: everyone welcome. Work by other artists can be found scattered throughout the transport network, including Gillian Wearing’s Towards DSC_0524 (2)World Peace on the moving posters at Bank. Additional artists will add their own images to stations starting in September. An ad campaign dedicated to reminding us that London is the greatest city in the world, regardless of the Brexit fall out. If you are a smart person you already know this to be irrefutable. For the rest, I don’t believe Brexit will make any difference. So an ad campaign for the true believers….how lovely.

Creatures who definitely understand the worth of my city, however, are Pokemon, because there are so so so many of them here. And catching them has become my latest addiction. The whole concept is genius. Utter genius. The game came to the UK the first week of July. In my rare disguise as a responsible parent I pretended to disapprove and refused to allow Stephen to put the game on my phone. So he put it on his father’s. And he was off. Navigating the neighborhood like he had The Knowledge. I realized I had so missed a trick. A game that involved dashing from landmark to landmark in pursuit of tiny creatures was sweeping the world, and I was opting to sit it out???? The woman who has hunted elephants and Easter eggs and sheep and bears and buses and dream jars and Olympic IMG_2016-07-30-12142215mascots was turning her nose up at this??? A chance to roam for hours and hours and hours in the city that she loves with no more goal than being in the moment??? And best of all, my children think I am WONDERFUL, more than wonderful, THE BEST MOTHER IN THE WORLD for saying “let’s wander round London all day long…..” If the only concession I am forced to make in this deal is allowing a little phone fiddling at intervals, well I can certainly live with that. AND you can take the most adorable photos. Instagramming heaven. I put the app on my phone and “gave” it to Katherine. Yesterday with Stephen on his father’s phone and Katherine with mine, we emerged from the Tube at Charing Cross and walked for hours and more than 10 kilometers, all over Westminster, seeing the buildings and parks with fresh eyes…not rushing from one location to the next in pursuit of some schedule, but strolling, watching, waiting for magical creatures to appear and dance for the camera. When both phone batteries died we headed home for some literal recharging…..and IMG_2016-07-30-21464462then back out. Because the Tate Modern is open until 10 on Saturdays, and the illusive Mr. Mime was rumoured to hang out there. Never have two young children been so excited to go to an art gallery, at night. And while we didn’t find Mr. Mime, the galleries were filled with other Pokemon. And art. Gorgeous, wonderful art, including the new Georgia O’Keeffe show. This is exactly what is meant by a win-win situation. At 10pm we headed out to Bankside and wandered, along with crowds and plenty more Pokemon, IMG_2016-07-30-22134596down to Waterloo Station. Outside the National Theatre a drag queen disco was taking place, the Pokemon caught there, Jynx, seemed to have dressed for the occasion, complete with blond wig. Hilarious.

Up early this morning to join the queue for the Tower of London, THE hotspot according to Time Out, 30 minutes before it opened. Good thing I am a member. And yes, Stephen and Katherine caught loads, often helped by the equally mad for Pokemon Go Tower guards. And for me, it was a most wonderful morning. I have been to the Tower many, many times. But always just rushing from exhibit to exhibit, worrying about time and schedules, fussing over guests…and this morning, well NONE of that. Just looking up and around and admiring and taking time, lots and lots of time (sometimes Pokemon keep you waiting) to absorb the Tower itself, the buildings against a pure blue sky, the gargoyles, the stonework, the pieces of armor ignored by the crowds, the way the shadows fall on the grass and the silhouettes of the ravens on the walls. “Isn’t it nice to just stand and take it in,” said a DSC_0532guard. I couldn’t agree more.

Then on to Regent’s Park, which was crowded. Very crowded. And filled with Pokemon hunters. Of all ages and shapes and sizes. Wandering the paths and gardens, phones held aloft, shouts of delight and disappointment piercing the air. Regent’s Park isn’t my usual patch. It is place I find confusing and get frequently lost. Usually I am rushing (late) to the Open Air Theatre or waiting for the Frieze Art Fair shuttle….but this afternoon was different. No rushing and all waiting done without frantic “I am going to miss out” impatience. These Pokemon are tricky, wily creatures. They don’t always show up where IMG_2016-07-31-17224868you expect, they surprise and delight. They reward rambling. And flower sniffing. And people watching. And taking it all in. And that is exactly what I have been doing. Peacefully, happily taking in my beloved city. The most open city in the world. London: Everyone Welcome. Especially Zubat and friends.

IMG_2016-07-31-18513771IMG_2016-07-31-09272647Tonight, 48 hours on from the start of our Pokemon Go odyssey, we are weary. My feet hurt. We have covered more than 30 kilometers in 2 days. But I am happy. Katherine has caught 174 on my behalf, Stephen boasts over 200. I have hundreds of fabulous photos. And my Good Mummy badge is shining brighter than Pikachu himself. Perfect.


On the Switch House….my love for the Tate 52/100

DSC_0037_2Faithful readers, you know how I appreciate a good staircase. Here is another one to add to the list: the gorgeous, swirling, creamy staircase at the brand new, just opened, Switch House wing of the Tate Modern. 8 years in the making, this extension gives the Tate the opportunity to showcase less traditional forms of art, as in not just things that hang on walls. Pieces that are massive or interactive or include living things like horses and parrots and people. Art that is much much further outside the proverbial box than what is now being called the Boiler House, the old power station we have known and loved. I have been looking forward to this for a long time. My children and I have studied the models across from the cloakroom, watched the earthmovers and the cranes and the ever-expanding building site and then suddenly, the skeleton of a building being filled in and filled out. The anticipation was delicious. Made all the more because by the time the doors were flung open on the dot of 4 pm, on 14 June, for those of us standing in a long queue, clutching Member’s Invites, it had been raining, monsooning, for hours. The soaking I got in the morning hadn’t dried by the repeat at lunchtime. Everything was wet. And my hair was beyond repair. Nothing to do but wrap myself into another world and allow the senses that respond to light and beauty and imagination and shock and all the things that make my pulse race, actually anything but the sensation of wet feet and clammy clothes. Because the Tate has always had a cocoon like quality for me, and this new space delivered beautifully.

I first visited the Tate in 1989, before its current groovy location on bankside, when I was DSC_0039_1spending a term at LSE. I still remember the sensation of seeing Matisse’s Snail for the first time. As though all beauty and colour and joy had been contained in one enormous canvas, just for me. I became obsessed with it. Returned to it time and time and time again. Hung a poster of it in my university room. Even once reconstruced a small version to send as a card to a friend. I felt I had been given the keys to the most wonderful, exciting, inspiring, challenging castle….a castle I moved into and never moved out. Art, good art, so often takes on a life of its own. What starts as a particular vision by a single artist becomes, over time, part of a collective memory. Collective, but yet personal. Sometimes the official interpretation of a piece holds its meaning, but more often it morphs into something much, much different, as time and history and experience influence how we respond. This is all very very good stuff. For me, the Matisse was the start of what has become a passionate love of art. Of art that I react to, that makes me feel and think and absorbs itself  into my own personality. I heard an interview with the British pop star Corinne Bailey Rae, who said that once a song is shared with the public it isn’t hers anymore, because it becomes part of other people’s experience and interpretation. That is the beauty of art, that reaction can be on such a personal, visceral level, regardless of the original. It is why places like the Tate are so popular. Why people can spend what seems like ages in front of a piece, just looking. And why kids love it. In 2009, Tate’s Turbine Hall held Miroslaw Balk’s How It Is, a enormous container whose interior falls DSC_0038_2were covered in soft black flock which, once entered, left the visitor in total darkness. The experience was supposed to give one the sense of utter despair, to remind us of terrible terrible times in history, our own emptiness etc, etc. But that is just what the write up said. It was a huge black box. And it was half-term, always a testing time for parents and children, and those trainers with flashing lights were all the rage. We visited the installation many times. And each time it was filled, FILLED with shrieking children, dashing heedlessly, happily round and round, little lights flashing, delighted that they had been released into such a crazy kind of space. Like the most awesome game of It of all time. And when they wanted to come out, they lay down and rolled down the ramp. How great is that. Exhausted parents slumped against the Hall walls, watching from a distance, relieved and grateful. Nevermind existential fear and doubt, this was the happiest place in London. The opportunity for cliche irresistible: hope out of darkness manifest. That is art.

Mark Rothko is an artist whose work is forever being reinterpreted; I won’t toss my own ideas into that ring. But the Rothko Seagram Murals room has such a sense of sacred space I can actually feel my heart slow and then expand as soon as I walk in. A few times I have been fortunate enough to have it to myself. It is like being kissed passionately by someone you love, that feeling that nothing else matters, that everything is going to be fine, that peace is indeed possible. That is art.

But these are all things you already know. What of the new space? It is fantastic. So fresh it still smells of paint. And the art…whew…I’m not sure I have the vocabulary. I walked into the first room and was so blown away I just blurted out “wow, this is some crazy stuff.” The guard standing nearby answered, without hesitation, “I think it is all beautiful.” Well said sir, well said. There is much to admire in the Switch House, but perhaps my favourite was on the 3rd level. The Artist Rooms, a space set aside for solo exhibitions of artists DSC_0043_2already in the collection. First up is Louise Bourgeois. I love her work. I adore her much larger than life spiders. Yes, yes, I know they are often called Maman (French for mother) and carry with them all that difficult mother stuff. But not for me. I think they are fantastic and not the least bit threatening. I particuarly like the way their shadow beomes part of the image. But then I don’t have mother “issues,” my own is pretty bloody marvelous.  And I am not afraid of spiders. Quite theDSC_0045_2 contrary actually. They are protected creatures in my house. It is utterly forbidden to kill them. I watched with great pleasure as my husband carefully coaxed one out the bathroom window recently. It think they are magical, powerful, stunning things and what I wouldn’t do for a line of Louise B’s spiders and their shadows along my wall…

And standing between the old and the new wings, high on the bridge, is Tree 2010 by Ai Weiwei. His triumphant show at the RA made devotees of us all. And there it stands proudly, a country in all its many parts. Factured but whole. Just like us. A metaphor for life. And living. And the reason we need art.