London Life

Don’t come for the art

Majestic Tate B at night

Recently I visited the Tate Britain and noticed something: just how beautiful the museum is. I’m not talking about the art, but rather about the details that take the experience to the next level.

Before this goes any further: no, I will not be discussing the rotunda or any of the other grand features the Tate Britain is known for – you already know about those.

View from The Wolfson Gallery

For instance, the above view from The Wolfson Gallery is incredible. Through a small window you can see the stairwell just outside – lights bounce off the marble floors and a modern art style mural decorates the walls floor to ceiling, creating an amazing juxtaposition to the late 19th century art in the room. It can be easily missed if you’re thoroughly preoccupied with art consumption, but this view is well worth the look. The view from the opposite side of the window and it’s also just as amazing.

Frame detail from

Besides enjoying art, I also enjoy the frames, and the Tate Britain has an excellent selection on view! The one photographed above is from Beyond Man’s Footsteps (exhibited 1894, oil paint on canvas) by Briton Rivière (1840 – 1920). Of course the work itself was stunning, but I greatly enjoy this frame. Specifically, I like that it is ornate in the multiple sections of carvings instead of in the shape. I especially like the circular patterns encase by two sections of carved piping. At first glance it looks just like any other gilded gold frame in an any old stuffy art museum, but up close this one is a real beauty.

Contradictory to my love of frames, I dislike framing – though I am known to help with it at Alekano on occasion!

Yes, that is a ceiling to the right and it would be considered beautiful anywhere.

Ceiling above the modern art

However, this ceiling covered a room filled with art from the early 20th century. Still not impressed? Most of this work was unframed or framed in a very basic way. Think modern art circa 1950-1970 and you’ll appreciate the first-glance simplicity of this room, the clean lines and organisational structure, the understated intricacy of every piece. Then you glance up to the sky lights and there it is – a ceiling design screaming for attention and appreciation with all of it’s minute details. I dig it.

And because I know you enjoy art as much as I do (if you didn’t you would have closed this window ages ago), here are two pieces that really resonated with me today.

The first is Cathy Wilkes’ (We Are) Pro Choice (2008, mixed media). The piece is meant to speak about women’s roles but honestly – I’m having an installation moment and was captivated by this room full of odds and ends that look so good together. I don’t want to talk in an educated way about this piece, I want to speak about how it drew me in, how I wanted to interact with it and see more. This piece stimulated me mentally and I had to stand still to take it all in. I like that it challenged my personality before I even knew one thing about what I was looking at or what it was trying to say. Simply put: I think this is beautiful.

This final piece is Jean Singer Sargent’s (1856-1925) Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (1885-6, oil on canvas). As soon as I saw this I beelined towards it, planting myself in the perfect viewing position. For some reason I was truly connecting with this piece on another level. I didn’t understand what I was feeling until I read the placard: Singer Sargent was a friend of and commissioned by Isabella Stewart Gardner, the founder of a museum I am very fond of and lived nearly next door to for the better part of four years.

I understand that statement may not make immediate sense to all my readers, so let me explain: Gardner was a collector and decorated her house exactly as she wanted. When she died she had the house preserved as a museum, and thus everything inside is something she found beautiful. I find my personal taste is often similar to Gardner’s in the sense that I agree with her decisions regarding her collection and viewing. Singer Sargent was one artist whose advice she occasionally sought, which means there was an excellent chance I would also appreciate his work. (I do.)

But I digress.

The short story here is: I truly adore this image of the little girls with their lanterns and the amazing frame surrounding the piece.

One thought on “Don’t come for the art

  1. Pingback: Another post about museums « Katherine Poole

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