Thursday, 18 June 2015

Tate Modern

Southwark SE1 9TG
Wednesday June 17th 2015

Same bus, even the same bus stop, as last week for the Globe – the 63 of course to bring Mary and Linda to Tate ModernThere are lots of reasons for visiting Tate Modern even if Modern Art is not your thing….

  • -       Good stopping point between the Tower of London & Westminster along the Thames Path
  • -       Across the pedestrian Millennium Bridge from St Paul’s
  • -       Fabulous views from the upper floors
  • -       Lots of space for children to run around
  • -       Very accessible – good lifts  (with priority for chairs and buggies) as well as exciting escalators
  • -       Several eating places
  • -       Spacious and well stocked shop

  • Now I’ve got that off my chest I can return to the museum which houses London’s collection of ‘Modern Art’ on floors 3 & 5 with special exhibitions on Level 4 and ground and upper floors for library, cafes, members’ rooms, education etc.

Our Project’s rules determine that we should focus on the substantive collection of any museum or gallery that we visit rather than the current special exhibition but we cheated somewhat today, both feeling that we have paid enough visits to the 4 ‘permanent’ galleries. For those of you not familiar with Tate Modern these are thematically arranged (I’m more a chronological person myself but there you go – it gives another perspective) with such titles as:
Poetry and Dream
Structure and Clarity
Transformed Visions
Energy and Process
Setting the Scene

Within each of these rooms there are some gems – the Rothko murals originally destined for the Four Seasons hotel in New York, the Matisse snail with works by other non-British artists.

Arguably other cities have greater collections of Modern Art but the building and space are a huge asset. The heart of the building is the Turbine Hall which has hosted some wonderful single or large multiple exhibitions all of them very memorable, not always for the right reasons ! 
Mary remembered crunching on the ‘Ai-Weiwei ‘ pebbles  before the public were banned from other than looking – Linda fondly recalled the Rachel Whiteread in 2004,  and of course when the whole Gallery opened in May 2000 there was Louise Bourgeois’ Giant Spider. It’s a big space and it needs some-one brave to fill it.
Today as we arrived so early it was almost empty – very unusually – and by the time we left a group of school children were camped obliquely on the ramp (a bit reminiscent, not in a good way, of the access to a roll on roll off ferry) with the sun filtering in which it  always manages to do…

Anyway, Mary & I were there chiefly to be cheered by the special exhibition, the Sonia Delaunay retrospective and cheered we were but also deeply impressed, overwhelmed and delighted in equal measure. Sonia (born Sara Stern to a Russian/Jewish family, renamed Sofia Terk by her rich adoptive aunt, but always known as Sonia) married Robert Delaunay when she arrive in Paris in 1906. When I tell you that she lived until 1979 dying at the age of 94 you will see that she lived through 2 world wars, and outlived her husband by many years, so the exhibition is prolific and extensive as she worked well into her Eighties. Twelve rooms offer you the wonderful range of her work from her early portraits – mainly of women and very arresting, and with an early fascination with colour and colour contrasts – through to her move to abstraction as she starts to work in Paris. This also coincides with the birth of her son Charles, and the asymmetric patchwork quilt she made for his cot is a star display.  Life in pre-war Paris clearly inspired her further – we both loved the tango dancers moving across the Bal Bullier ballroom. There is a tendency in art galleries, especially the more modern collections, to get embroiled in the range of ‘isms’ that permeate any writing about art – whether these are always helpful I am not sure – however  'Simultanism' seems to be the name of the game. Think colour and links with poetry and music.

The Delaunays were in Spain when the First World War broke out and stayed there and in Portugal, leaving us with a legacy of vibrant pictures of Portuguese markets, recognisable but modern.

Back in Paris in 1921 and Sonia had always had an eye for ‘commercial art – there are numerous examples of her designs for magazine covers, and once she ventured into ‘Vogue’ I guess it was inevitable she would design bespoke clothing also.  Even more desirable were her fabric designs: silk for clothes, some embroidered woollens and cotton for furniture textiles – Robert invented a mechanised display case for her work which the Tate recreate here.   It is so true that good design stands the test of time.

With the Paris Exhibition of 1937 the couple got a commission for some of the technology showrooms and these too are reproduced – though at the time it was Picasso’s  'Guernica' which grabbed the headlines.   
Luxury goods, which was what Sonia’s firm ‘Simultane’, was producing were no longer in demand come WWII and being Jewish she kept a low profile down in the South of France thus surviving where many did not.  Post-war and by now a widow Sonia kept Robert’s work alive and in the public eye but continued to work herself into her Eighties  returning to  her first medium of paint, this time round using gouache rather than oils.

This exhibition will lift your spirits and perhaps your glass to a redoubtable woman and artist. 


  1. Dear Ladies you have missed out the bus 640 which starts at South Harrow Station and end at Bentley Wood School the bus only comes at 7:45 and 7:55 at South Harrow. Please ride on this bus as it's a very intresting one to go's kn ¡ this bus is only avaliable on school days

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  3. Hello Sujan and thank you for your comment. But when we were 'on the buses' we agreed not to go on any of the 600 numbers, which are all school buses and not for Freedom Pass people!