The Hidden Wonder of the Tate Modern

A week or so ago, I visited the Tate Modern gallery in London. There was no real purpose for my visit, I am merely an art lover and wanted to feel that silence and stillness that only comes from an art gallery. I call myself an ignorant art lover. I love art, but know very little about it. I don’t tend to read criticism, I merely like to look at the paintings and analyse them based purely on what emotions they bring forth from me. However, as well as this has served me over my twenty two years, I have recently desired to know more about the historical context of the art I am viewing, the author’s intention and that well worn question about modern art: “Is that really art?”

I was pleasantly surprised then, during my trip to the Tate Modern when I came across an exhibition that seemed to break down modern art for an ignorant viewer (I include myself in this label.) It would show a picture, describe what the artist wanted to achieve and what effect many people have said it created. The information detailed on the small white plaque gave more information than the usual when it was created and with what materials, but explained to the viewer the answer to that well worn question. It explained exactly why it was art.

The exhibition was also brilliantly organised and laid out. The creations started from simple wall paintings, sectioned into colour and style and then finally built up into installations. It felt as if the Tate was guiding you through modern art, a ‘Modern Art 101’ whistle stop tour. I loved that exhibition and felt that I gained not just an understanding of the pieces displayed in that collection, but also the importance and appreciation of modern art as a whole. Whereas my love for art was mainly placed in the classics before, preferring oil paintings found in the National Portrait Gallery, I now found a place in my heart for a true appreciation of modern art.

Excited, I rushed home and onto the Tate Modern website, looking for the name of this collection I had somehow missed. I couldn’t find a trace of it on the website and even a google search revealed nothing. This brilliant introduction to Modern Art seemed to not be publicised on the website at all. With a vein of art that is so often belittled and ridiculed, hence the title of the bestselling book ‘Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That: Modern Art Explained’, it seemed such a shame that a collection that could have dispelled some of those myths and preconceptions has been hidden from public view.

In a culture where the arts is often over looked and fighting for funding, it seems to me strange that an opportunity to spread the accessibility of modern art is being wasted. How many more people, people who scoff over a knife slice in a canvas or an installation of a used bed, would have their minds opened to what Modern Art could do, given the chance and publicization of this collection. In a society where the younger generation is turning away from art, it seems a shame to add another well-kept secret to London’s list.



5 thoughts on “The Hidden Wonder of the Tate Modern

  1. Great – thanks for this – I feel as if I have discovered something too! I enjoyed reading your piece, which is refreshingly honest about your lack of expertise. This did make me wonder though – is that
    a good platform to entice your reader to continue? If you’re writing about the arts do you need more background knowledge? (I’d be interested to see what your other comments say!) You managed to broaden it out at the end, bringing in the debate about the relevance of arts more generally to society and to young people ( are they really turning away by the way?). If you’re interested in this debate, you might like to read John Carey’s What Good Are the Arts?


  2. A light and easy read. A well written and structured piece which I enjoyed reading. I think the fact that you label yourself as “an ignorant art lover” works both for, and against you. It works for you in that this is a label many of your blog readers will relate to meaning they feel a personal connection to you, however it works against you in that the question of why the readers should trust your views if you are the same as them emerges. What makes your view different from all the other arts bloggers out there?


  3. I really enjoyed reading this. I think framing yourself as an ‘ignorant art lover’ is a really interesting choice, but I wonder if it could be pushed further? What has previously held you back from engaging with art criticism or putting work you have viewed into a broader context? Where did those hesitations come from and what has made you change your mind? I think you set yourself up for a really engaging journey, one where we (the readers) can follow your developing relationship with art. I imagine this can be engaging and enlightening for all art lovers (ignorant or not). Marie


  4. This was very well written, I really enjoyed the balance between discussing aspects of how the exhibition was laid out, the function of it and the impact on you personally. I understand you looked for information and couldn’t find any but some kind of information or further description could have been helpful so readers could find the exhibition.


  5. I really enjoyed the personal aspect of the piece and felt guided through the writing. I thought your vantage point of an ‘ignorant art lover’ was interesting, again I would like more context to why you think you are one.
    Also, I would have enjoyed your angle on a specific piece within the exhibition, maybe one that had an impact on your emotions as you describe in the earlier paragraphs. Especially if you could pinpoint why having historical context/the artist’s intention enhances your understanding or your feelings towards the piece. I guess this also links into the question of whether you need the artist’s intention to make a work readable. I really enjoyed the last section, linking your concerns to the wider modern world. This was an engaging article! Sophie


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