[I'm Here, but Nothing (2000) Yayoi Kusama]
If you are a Tate Member you can get into any Tate exhibition you like, when you like (queues permitting). Despite this fantastic passport to art, I have irregular spates of going to the Tate, and hadn't been for a while until Friday, when I decided I wanted to see all the major exhibitions at both Tate Britain and Tate Modern in one day and go on the Tate boat that runs along the river between the two. I was spurred on by the fact that the Boetti exhibition was just about to close, so I visited this, the Hirst, and the Kusama, hopped on the boat and saw the Picasso and Modern British Art and the Migrations exhibitions, and wandered through the Patrick Keiller work. It sounds mad to see so much in one day, especially when there are people who think you should look at just one painting for a long time on a visit to a gallery, but it was wonderful to have the chance to amass so many images and so much visual stimulation, then to sail and walk along the river thinking about them.
[Anthraquinone-1-Diazonium Chloride (1994) Damien Hirst]
I find I can look at a lot of conceptual art in a very short time. Call me shallow or call the work shallow, but it doesn't take too long to see what's being said and work out whether it was worth saying in the way the artist chose. For this reason, it was good to see the three Tate Modern shows together. So many spots (Kusama, Hirst), so many deliberate shocks (Kusama, Hirst), so many stamps and labels (Kusama, Boetti), so much work delegated to others by the artist (Boetti, Hirst), so much repetition (all three), so much order vs disorder (all three), so little humour (only Boetti). I was utterly taken by Boetti, but I was left cold by Hirst, and struggled to understand Kusama.
[one of Boetti's beautiful embroideries]
Being a member also means access to the fantastic Members' Room way up on the sixth floor of Tate Modern with amazing views over the river and St Paul's and the wobbly bridge. The room is so cool and minimal, I reckon you could take your laptop and work from there. I swear there were a few people doing exactly that, and they can't all have been art critics.
Then the Tate Boat takes 17 minutes to go from Tate to Tate, and it's a great little journey under the bridges that I have so often walked over, and with historically layered views of London from a new view point, with a glimpse of a very separate world of the river (I never realised there's a RNLI station by Embankment).
Tate Britain has had a major re-hang and now has a 'walk through C20 art' in the rooms previously occupied by the Victorians. There are still plenty of wilting Pre-Raphaelites and solid, upright Victorians but in new groupings and, in some places, on freshly painted, deep scarlet walls. The Emigrations exhibition is a little too loose and earnest, I feel, and trying too hard. There's a real mish-mash in there, but a few gems. The Picasso exhibition is also attempting a great deal: to evaluate the impact of Picasso on C20 British artists and to show what he did while he was here. Instead, it succeeds in demonstrating (yet again) what a genius he was, and how he could turn his hand to everything, art-wise. There seems to be no genre he couldn't master then dominate, and unfortunately, most of the British artists pale in comparison. I'm not a Picasso aficionado by any means, but most of his worked simply looked better than the rest.
So there we have it, an art-filled day out. The highlights were Boetti in one Tate, Picasso in the other, and the boat inbetween.
[In case you're wondering and in the interests of full disclosure, I saw the Patrick Keiller commission but didn't take much in. My eyes were glazing over by this point.]