Updated: Jul 28
During the 2020 peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, London’s Tate Modern art gallery closed its doors to the public for 173 days, tanking its average yearly attendance. Still, the museum ranked third amid lockdown on the list of most visited art museums in the world.
The gallery, opened by Her Majesty The Queen in Spring of 2000, houses the United Kingdom’s largest display of international modern and contemporary art from 1900 on, spread about an 11 floor gallery space.
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Even with free admission to the gallery’s permanent collection and aesthetically popular rotating exhibitions like Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms, the people’s museum has taken a major cut in attendance post pandemic-lockdown.
In the gallery’s post COVID-19 world, however, Tate Modern highlights its British library collection piece with revered popularity against other exhibits.
Yinka Shonibare’s The British Library, 2014 (Photo: Viktoria Capek)
Yinka Shonibare’s The British Library, 2014, is an installation of 6,328 hardback books individually covered in multicolored fabric and ‘Dutch wax print.’ On more than a third of the books’ spines, names of some of the most significant contributors to British culture and history are printed in gold leaf. A study space is open to gallery visitors in the exhibit to learn more about the people named on the books, as well as view more work by the artist.
The British Library is a celebration of contributions made by Immigrants to Britain, and holds particular interest among educational and school programs.
The crossover of art media and British history and culture displays just one facet of what’s available for viewing at Tate Modern art gallery. Media politics and comprehension also represent a large portion of gallery pieces on display in the permanent collection.
Be it for my personal connection to modern media or for its grandeur in size and used materials, but a favorite piece includes Cildo Meireles’ 2001 sculpture installation Babel.
Cildo Meireles Babel, 2001 (Photo: Viktoria Capek)
The structure is made up of hundreds of analogue radios all tuned to different stations, audible, but too low in volume to make out individual words or phrases. It mirrors the biblical Tower of Babel, of which was made by builders God condemned to speak in all different tongues, thus making them incapable of effectively communicating with one another.
The artist explains Babel’s significance representing the influx of media content coming at individuals from different sources in the modern world. Could this be especially true of media consumption during the COVID-19 era? The speed at which information was being thrown at the public from every media source overcrowded airways and led to a conglomerate of what was true and what was fiction. Much like the frequencies omitted from Merieles’ art piece Babel, we were unable to clearly hear and comprehend the source or sources presenting themselves to us.
The indigo tinted room Babel rests in is one of 10 in Tate Modern displaying works of art responding to the development of mass media.
Guerrilla Girls Guerrilla Girls’ Pop Quiz, 1990 (Photo: Viktoria Capek)
During its rebuild period, Tate Modern art gallery is a welcomed contrast in visual displays to the classic pieces, relics and works of art London’s National Gallery, V & A Museum and the Tower of London all have to offer.
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