Home Arts Everything is changing at Tate Britain after the first change in a decade

Everything is changing at Tate Britain after the first change in a decade

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Everything changes in Pimlico. For the first time in a decade, Tate Britain has rehung its collection.

The revaluation of the more than 800 works in the Millbank Gallery, the world’s most comprehensive collection of British art, has been overseen by Alex Farquharson, Director of Tate Britain, who today presented the new Tate Britain to the public for the first time.

“A lot of things have changed,” says Farquharson The arts journal. “You always get famous works and famous artists, but also new voices and rediscoveries.”

So what should we expect?

The Tate’s collection spans five centuries, with paintings dating from the Tudor period to the present day.

Farquharson wanted to reinterpret the collection, he says, to provide “a new way of looking at British art history”. He adds: “It’s a huge undertaking, the largest collection of its kind. I want [Tate Britain] work for as many people as possible, including people for whom it is their first visit and their first encounter with art.

The rehang ensures that Tate Britain’s collection is up to date with the country it serves and represents, with recent finds and newly commissioned contemporary works now sitting alongside works for which the Tate is best known.

“We wanted to include all the great Tate favourites, but also offer a whole host of new finds,” says Farquharson.

The rehang now shows, alongside the familiar Pre-Raphaelite, Jacobean and Tudor classics, 200 contemporary works that have been acquired by the Tate since 2000, with 70 works purchased in the last five years. The youngest artist featured is Rene Matić, an artist photographer from Peterborough born in 1997.

The Tate Britain rehang features newly designed and curated rooms which focus, by theme, on particular moments in modern British history.

“We wanted to talk about art through a social, cultural and political lens,” says Farquharson. “Art is not made in a vacuum. Each piece is organized as an example of storytelling. But we also wanted to offer different facets of a given era through the art created at the time.

A room titled “Fear and Freedom,” for example, examines a group of works in the years following the end of World War II, exploring events such as the fallout from the nuclear bombings on Japan and the onset of cold. War with Russia.

Another room, titled “A Room of One’s Own,” a phrase taken from an essay written by Virginia Woolf, for example, is dedicated to early 20th-century interior designs created, for the most part, by female artists. The room includes little-known paintings of working-class women by artist and activist Sylvia Pankhurst, the second daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, the founder of the suffragette movement.

Another room, titled ‘In Full Colour’, examines works made in the UK when pop took over modern art. The movement emerged in the era of television in the 1950s and flourished in the 1960s, primarily in New York, around artists like Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Roy Lichtenstein. But Tate Britain has acknowledged Britain’s contribution to the Pop movement, highlighting the work of overlooked artists working in the genre like Pauline Boty and, to some extent, Peter Blake.

For visitors familiar with the Tate collection, some things will remain the same.

The chronology of the collection remains, with visitors taking the same route through the building as before the redevelopment. “It seemed really important to keep the chronological thread,” Farquharson says. “Visitors always start at the same place and end at the same place, which is related to the nature of the architecture of the building.”

Likewise, some of the best-known works in the collection are still present.

Tate Britain’s new rehang retains seven rooms dedicated to the work of 19th-century Romantic painter JMW Turner, in accordance with the terms of the artist’s bequest. One room remains dedicated to paintings by the pioneering English landscape painter John Constable. Abstract sculptor Henry Moore has two rooms.

But the Tate has also decided to dedicate entire rooms to artists initially ignored by their peers.

One room, for example, is dedicated to Guyanese painter Aubrey Williams, who emigrated to the UK from Georgetown, Guyana in 1952, and whose work combines studies of American and European Abstract Expressionism with motifs inspired by the indigenous art of the Americas.

Farquharson acknowledges that there is still work to be done in recognizing the “gaps” in British art history. “If you connect art to society, but try to do so in an inclusive, democratic and representative way, what do you do with the gaps?” he asks. “Sometimes you have to read a painting against the grain. You have to look at its implicit as well as explicit message.”

Another space focuses on Joan Carlile, whose art dates back to 1650 – she is believed to be the first woman in Britain to work as a professional oil painter.

“Each room is different, almost like a mini-exhibit,” says Farquharson. “When you go through the collection, you go through great periods of time, artistically and historically. But, nevertheless, the challenge for us is how to establish continuity in the midst of these differences.

He adds: “These mini-exhibitions are like individual beads on a string. It is a journey of different perspectives.

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