The problem with the early Members’ Hours at the Tate is that they’re early. The other problem is that there are over 100,000 members now (I believe…) and so the imagined idyll of empty galleries, just like on the telly, is unlikely to be achieved. I had raced through the Pre-Raphaelites show 6 weeks ago while concentrating on the Turner Prize. It was hideously crowded and I wasn’t sure whether I’d make the effort to see it properly.
Still, I’ve been advised not to say No to anything, even my own suggestions, so in that spirit I got up very early, for a Sunday and headed to Pimlico. Oddly, people were heading in straight away and there was a queue. An entabarded man was regulating entry and, in response to his query as to whether I had booked (apparently flashing my membership card was insufficient) I’m afraid I told a fib and said I had, at which revelation I was admitted. A kind man at the ticket desk let me have one of their spares, thereby sparing me the humiliation of an ejection.
To be honest I’m not sure how interesting I find the Pre-Raphaelites in terms of the work they produced, so much as the effect they had, and so much of it is perhaps over-familiar anyway. Nevertheless, I did enjoy it, in spite of the large group being lectured at and led around by a loud American curator; somewhat going against the spirit of the semi-exclusive hour. Their presence meant you had either to speed up or to improvise a non-linear scheme of looking. I heard a man say to his companion:
I’m just going back to that other room to see Ophelia
It was pleasing to be able to linger over a few Ford Madox Brown paintings that I’d had to rush past at the Manchester Gallery last year and the tapestries were unexpected. The progress of William Morris was also enjoyably tangible.
Outside the queues were enormous:
The last time I’d come to one of these events, the works on display in the open space outside the main galleries were unexpected and so doubly appreciated. Then it was Patrick Keiller, now it was Ian Hamilton Finlay. I wasn’t sure whether I knew him or not. I liked his attention to design and form as well as his poetry, especially this final piece:
Ignoring the unresolved nagging feeling that I’d planned to do something else next, after a brief spell in the Members’ Room which seems to facilitate mainly negotiations for extra chairs, owing to its size, I headed home. It was Football Time and the result was satisfactory. During the match I consulted my almanac and realised that it was the last day of the Bloomberg New Contemporaries at the ICA, so I would have to head back into town again, knowing that I was due at the tunnels beneath Waterloo Station in the evening.
Long before I moved to London I used to visit quite a lot, and during those visits I would come to the ICA often, usually for films. I couldn’t remember how large the galleries were and was worried whether I’d have time to see everything in the hour or so available to me. In fact, it was fairly small. There was perhaps more painting than you might expect at such shows. Lots of video of course. I think my favourite was the squirrel, because it reminded me of the Maurizio Cattelan suicide squirrel I’d caught at the Whitechapel in December:
One question – who are the mysterious manufacturers of these weird TV sets often used for video art and in schools (on stilts)? As is often the case with waiting until the last day, some installations either weren’t working or couldn’t be bothered to work.
I walked down Charing Cross Road and across the Thames to Waterloo and the Old Vic Tunnels, venue for the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a show I only knew about because I heard an interview with Fiona Shaw on Night Waves. La di da. There was some confusion in the lobby, while we had to wait for the people who’d seen the previous showing to leave:
The next room held a bar and strange pool:
Fiona Shaw appeared while people were taking their seats, with two black hats. She picked out several people and tried hats on them, searching and assessing the audience. As you’d expect it was a powerful performance from her and her interplay with the dancer worked quite well. As with many such poems, I enjoyed it much more in this format than I had under scholastic strictures. The occasional rumblings from trains up above melded effectively with the soundtrack. Here is a view of the stage before the performance began:
Sundays shouldn’t really be so busy.