Tuesday, 12 October 2010

For the Love of Tate

A bright sunny day on the Southbank and we head off to the Tate Modern. The view over the river is remarkable and the girls love watching the boats gliding up and down. It’s a great place to sit and point out some of the most magnificent and architecturally inspiring buildings. The Tate stands so tall and proud soaring into the sky and the girls have to strain their necks to see where the chimney meets the sky.

The old power station works absurdly well as a gallery and the natural expanse of the turbine hall is an exciting place to enter. The exterior gives no clues as to what awaits inside and walking through the wall of doors in anticipation of the colours, textures and plays of light that wait inside is like the suspense of opening a gift. This is what the Tate is – a gift – to everyone. Housing free exhibitions with the exception of the special exhibitions like the current Gauguin display, it’s a great place to take children.

Children don’t need to have an understanding of art to appreciate the glorious and huge displays of Pollock, Matisse, or Rothko and its fun to see modern art through their eyes. The space is enjoyable too, moving through the rooms and discovering what visual treats lay in each.

The highlight of the afternoon was without doubt Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds, the current commission in The Unilever Series.
porcelain sunflower seeds

100 million seeds poured into the Turbine Hall’s vast industrial space. The mass of seeds, spreading over the floor like a pebbled island, look at first utterly realistic and urge you to walk upon them, to touch them, to listen to the sounds as they move under your feet, It comes as a surprise to find they are each crafted in porcelain, each seed is unique, though taking the same form, the same identity, each is a handcrafted piece.

The awareness that you were casually walking upon another’s art, which hundreds of hands had created was a peculiar feeling. Yet this is part of the intention. The contrast of efforts of significance.

Of course the girls are completely unaware of the ‘geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange today’ and I don’t think it would have mattered to them that they were not in fact real sunflower seeds. The girls instead immersed themselves into the field of seeds, tossed them into the air, hid each others feet under seed mountains, chased one another, falling down in delight, shifting and moving the husks, taking a closer look at each of them, and filling their shoes. It’s a visual sensory work of art and this is what makes an exhibition like this so perfectly pleasing for children.


With a promise to visit ‘Sunflower Island’ on the way out we ventured up to the other floors to see even more delights. It was a fantastic day and Sophia’s favourite was Cy Twombly’s Bacchus series. I can understand why.

Walking into room nine Sophia asked ”Is this a theatre, is there going to be a play?” She was quite right too it’s an installation entitled The Juniper Tree which re-imagines a performance, a piece by Joan Jonas which combines fairytales and Japanese theatrical traditions. This is why I love The Tate Modern; it’s a satisfying of the senses, a collection of works that asks you to ask questions even if you’re only four.

Oh and did I say 100 million sunflower seeds? Lets make it ninety- nine million nine hundred ninety nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine – we discovered one in Oona’s shoe! Not to worry though Tate we’ll give it back on Saturday as the girls have got the love – the love of Tate.

For children aged five and over there are free art activities on satudays and sundays. During the week there's a family zone to enjoy, and free paper based activities for children to enjoy whilst exploring too. Whatever the age there's something for everyone.

1 comment:

  1. Loving this write-up - and perfect timing too as we are heading over there this weekend! Thanks xxx