Modern art has always been something of a mystery to me. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy some art immensely—earlier this year, I visited the Scottish National Gallery and spent a good ten minutes staring at this statue of Cain and Abel—but most modern art has always bewildered me. More often than not, seemingly meaningless and unrelated objects come together to create an ‘exhibition’ with some half-formed explanation on a plaque as to why two or more rooms were dedicated to a pile of junk. To me, this gives modern art a bad name. This gives art a bad name.
One exhibition in particular (Yves Klein) struck me as particularly ridiculous, when I gained special access to this part of the gallery (it usually costs the considerable fee of £10 for adults, but thanks to my university’s ongoing partnership with the Tate it was free) and was met with what can only be described as a wholly unnecessary number of canvases painted with the same blue pigment. The blue pigment was hand-created by the artist and was described as having a “quality close to pure space”, which is all well and good, but when you’re confronted with a room filled of canvases made from different materials all coated in the same colour, it’s hard to be impressed. I mean, any old person could have done that, right? Of course, any old person absolutely could have done that… but Klein just happened to be the jammy artist that got around to doing it first.
I can appreciate the Blue Room—think 50 Shades’ Red Room, but with a lot more pain—aesthetically, I suppose, but I can’t ever imagine walking into it after paying £10 and feeling happy with my investment. Then again, the payment did open up a few other parts of the gallery, including one that was a favourite of mine (and is shown in the featured image of this review, rather cheekily as photos aren’t technically allowed in the exhibition…): the Edward Krasiński exhibition. This did, unfortunately, feature a similar jarring shade of blue to the one that Klein used on their canvases, but in this exhibition there seemed to be a lot less of it. Of course this wasn’t exactly true, as a blue strip of colour laced its way around the entire room; across canvases, and even across mirrors and suspended objects in midair, but I appreciated all this colour far more when it wasn’t used quite so obnoxiously.
Continuing somewhat loosely with the theme of blue as we tour around the Tate, Tracy Emin’s My Bed piece presents a blue rug at its forefront. This piece of modern art is an “unflinching self-portrait in which the artist herself is absent”, and I am in two very different minds about it. On one hand, from the viewpoint of someone who is almost as much a disastrous mess as this piece of artwork, I can appreciate Emin’s dedicated to recreating this scene in each gallery their work is displayed in. On the other hand, I have to wonder… why has this artwork been displayed in so many galleries? I understand that there is some melancholic rhyme and reason behind the messy bedroom presented in this piece of artwork, but to me it just looks like exactly that: a messy bedroom. And I can’t really find much beauty in that.
Modern art is still a mystery to me. I’d much rather stare at Achilles Lamenting the Death of Patroclus, as outrageously pretentious and snobby as that statement is. At this point, I just can’t tell if I’m too cultured for modern art, or if modern art is simply too cultured for me. I have my suspicions that it’s the latter—after all, nothing I’ve ever created has been displayed in a gallery!
Thanks for reading.