\ˈärt, ərt\

Since we had a few hours before the Comedy of Errors began at the Globe, we decided to walk next door to the Tate Modern Museum. My first memorable introduction to Tate Modern was via this lil documentary that my brother posted on my facebook wall this summer:  Why Beauty Matters (Roger Scruton – BBC, 2009).

Less eloquently summarized by the river boat captain: if you’re interested in seeing a building dedicated to displaying rubbish posing as art, make your way over to Tate Modern.

Ouch. Feeling like that was undeservedly hostile, I wanted to see for myself so I could draw my own conclusions.

High school aged art students presumably sketching various works throughout the museum
High school aged art students presumably sketching various works throughout the museum. Not quite sure what is meant by these Charlie Brown deciduous trees…

I was delighted to some works by Picasso including this one:

Seated Nude – Picasso (image from Tate Modern website)

I remember being introduced to Picasso in those Art inserts in my elementary school literature books.  His works were indeed… different from more classically trained artists, but from my perspective he pushed boundaries without jumping off the deep end like Duchamp did with his “Fountain” (harshly criticized in Scruton’s documentary).  Defining any random object as art does not necessarily make it so.  I further grew in appreciation for Picasso when his work was discussed in my UM English class: “more” does not always mean “better”.

Bull – Picasso

His classical skill is not as well publicized, probably because he rejected that style to portray the world in a unique, profound way.  I understand that just because something is “unique” or “profound” doesn’t necessarily make it art, but Picasso was definitely on to something.

Here was another piece that I found particularly interesting:


Homeworkers – Margaret Harrison

From the display caption: (courtesy of Tate Modern)

“Harrison advocated action and strong political discourse as the only effective means of fighting for workers’ and women’s rights. She began to research Homeworkers when the Equal Pay Act came into force in the UK in December 1975. Harrison worked with the National Campaign for Homeworkers in London for two years and interviewed several piece workers. The canvas includes items such as gloves, brooches, buttons and safety pins, flanked by their selling price, their production time and the money paid to their makers. The seven hands painted at the top symbolise the manual toil involved in piece work.”


I feel confident in disagreeing with the river boat captain’s claims, but there were some pieces in this gallery that were more… dodgy.  Enjoy a few rounds of Interpret This. Feel free to jot down your guesses in the comment section! Each picture is followed by Tate Modern’s description of the work so you can check your “answers”.

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2 thoughts on “\ˈärt, ərt\

  1. Thanks for the shout-out! Modern art is a really fascinating topic, but as you hint, it needs to be engaged in dialogue with what preceded it, i.e. the traditional or as you say, the classical. The Scruton documentary is a pretty decent place to start, but I think his approach may be more emotional than rational. For instance, many of the touchstones of modern art which he directs the documentary’s attention are quite removed from any clear source idea. Juxtaposed against Scruton’s traditional style, the viewer develops a visceral revulsion for the modern, but we don’t quite know why, other than a certain sense of out-of-proportion ego.

    This is one reason why I think Picasso is so important to the conversation. Not only was he classically trained, but one could very well say that he was a classical virtuoso. His break from tradition stands as a point source, a Patient Zero of sorts. As Robert Florczak offers in his example in this PragerU video, “As with most revolutions [of intellectual and artistic character], the first generation [of the Impressionists] produced works of genuine merit.” http://www.prageruniversity.com/History/Why-is-Modern-Art-so-Bad.html#.VB-tq_ldWQA

    Incidentally, I’ve just started a new book that looks at the state of architecture and urban design in the US. Spoiler alert: the matter isvery similar to the traditional versus modern art conversation, just amplified by the nature that architecture and urban planning quite literally draw our built environment. http://www.amazon.com/Till-Have-Built-Jerusalem-Architecture/dp/1932236961


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