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  • Writer's pictureJames Spiro

An Evening at the Tate

This year, I was fortunate enough to become a member of the Tate in London. It offers me free entry into exhibitions in both Tate Modern and Tate Britain for the next year. I have always enjoyed museum and gallery visits: it was one of the most educational parts of my childhood and an interest I took with me when I lived in New York for three years.

I visited on a Friday night, as London celebrates the start of its well-deserved weekend. I walked from Moorgate and along the River Thames as the sun was setting and workers across the city were socialising with colleagues and friends over a beer. It was a lovely sight.

Current exhibitions that caught my eye were The Radical Eye and Wolfgang Tillmans 2017. The former is a display of Elton John’s private photography collection. In 1991, he began collecting work from artists such as Man Ray, Irving Penn, and Dorothea Lange. It is well-known among my peers that I prefer landscapes to portraits, but I was determined to power through!

It is an incredible collection which John has kindly shared with the public. Portraits dating back to 1917 are on display as visitors can gain an insight into the mind of one of Britain’s most acclaimed songwriters and performers. One piece that particularly caught my eye was Lange’s Migrant Mother from 1936. The authentic look of the woman’s face as she witnesses the devastating effects of the American Depression and the consequences that face the children resting on her shoulder. I felt very humbled and fortunate to be so close to such an important piece of photographic history.

After a brief coffee in the Member’s Room, I ventured into Tillmans’ collection of photography. As a more contemporary artist, he became known for his artwork representing still life and everyday culture. Below is a (badly taken!) photo of my favourite piece: The State We’re In (2015).

I am a lover of nature, and the sheer size of this photo that displays the awesome power of water really affected me. I stopped and stared at it for perhaps 10 minutes. This is a stark contrast to my usual pace of quick walking and absorbing many pieces more quickly. The name says it all: are we in a state of large abyss, with the ocean acting as a metaphor for the power we are losing? I would have taken it home there and then – if only I had the space in my home!

On my exit, I was surprised to see the museum host a Speakers’ Corner – a dedicated place where anyone can stand on a soapbox and express their personal views with the help of a microphone. I rejoiced at this act of free speech – something that America, my past home, seems to be battling at the moment.

I would really recommend anyone in London visiting the Tate Modern and seeing some of these collections for themselves. An Instagram picture or Google search cannot compare to the raw and organic feeling of being within touching distance of art and the history surrounding them.

The Radical Eye is on display until May 21, and Wolfgang Tillmans 2017 runs until June 11.

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