Here I am, already two or three days behind in my blogging–the result of discovering a few days ago, right before going to bed, that our Australian bank account had been SOMEHOW hacked and a substantial sum had been taken! We’re still reeling from this news, and learning of the elaborate scam that was involved. We have had to spend many hours on the phone to Australia, trying to figure out how this happened. Travellers, be warned!
I did want to give a recounting of our experience at the most popular museum in London, the Tate Modern. We were so excited to learn that the first retrospective exhibition of the American artist Agnes Martin would be on when we were in London, so we bought tickets before we arrived. We were not disappointed in the show, about which I’ll write a little bit more in a minute. But first I want to give my very personal opinion of the Tate Modern itself. We had heard so much about its immense popularity–5 million visitors a year!–that we were curious about the reasons for its hipper-than-hip status. My first impression: the view is spectacular (see above: taken from the 6th floor cafe, across the Thames to a shot of Saint Paul’s Cathedral and the Old Bailey)! I had no idea that this immense power station, brilliantly converted into a state-of-the-art gallery, was right smack dab in the middle of the city; I somehow envisioned it way down the Thames somewhere. We really were lucky that our friends Henry and Val are members, and so we were able to get into the Members’ lounge, where the view is even better, since you can sit outside and listen to the boats making noises on the water.
It reminded me of being on the river in New Orleans–always bustling activity, and a real sense of being in the middle of life going on around you.
But what about the Modern itself? (Here I am with the only Duchamp I found in the place).
I must admit that I was a bit flummoxed by the permanent collection and the Museum’s interiors. Given that it was initially an industrial building, it’s understandable that the design would be severe and minimal–as I said, a brilliant re-use of such a structure. But the collections, or at least the works on display, were a bit disappointing. I expected more pizzazz, more slickness; I really got the feeling they were running out of ideas on what to do with the objects they had. Except for a room full of Rothkos, there was little coherence to the displays, I thought. A London friend commented that the Museum was unprepared for this massive popularity, and now really don’t know how to proceed. Why has it been so popular? Is it because of its location, its part in the revitalization of Southwark and the river itself? Is it just because of that magnificent view? Could be. What is in any case SO impressive in London is that all of these museums are FREE! Take that, LACMA, take that, The Met, and take THAT, Kunsthistorisches Museum!
And now for Agnes Martin: She is the artist that I always mention when people scorn “abstract” and minimal art as being merely decorative or not really art. If that is true, then why do I have a nearly spiritual experience looking at her work? She was indeed involved with Zen Buddhism and was trying to create canvases that were about pure perception. We spent a long time in this show, and it takes some intense concentration, but the works included here were given excellent display, and we were immensely happy to have been able to see it. We liked this little video clarifying her intentions:
We had to collect ourselves with coffee after that viewing, and then went outside to the mundane world again. And there was The Globe Theater! What an exciting little touristy venue to have next to the Tate Modern! We wanted to go in and have a peek, but a performance was about to begin, so we didn’t have time to sit through “Measure for Measure” just to see the interior. So we walked about to London Bridge Tube Station via the fantastic Borough Market, open since the 1790s.
A great London day! And I still have to write up the next day, which was even more fun!