Moore, Coral Reefs and Cardboard Robots: My first visit to Tate Britain

On Friday evening I went to the Tate Britain for the first time, many thanks to Anne and her magical members card.

We went specifically to see the Henry Moore exhibition, well Anne did, I kinda just went along for the ride, I pretend to no nothing about art. I love museums, but I find art galleries a bit of a mystery. Particularly when they are filled with modern art. However, I was incredibly glad I did go. I had heard of Henry Moore, I was even able to recognise some of his work before visiting the exhibition, but I didn’t know anything about the man, or why he went into sculpture or just how much he actually did. The first thing that struck me was just how many different sculptures Moore created. There were hundreds in the exhibition, all different shapes, sizes and materials. The longer you look, the stranger they become. A lot of what Moore’s sculptures had an almost feminine (albeit abstract) feel to them, also a lot of the sculptures were influenced by early non-western cultures particularly Mexico. It was interesting to find out that he took a lot of his inspiration from the British Museum collections.

I entered the exhibition with an open mind, and was really enjoying looking at the strange shapes and pondering whether or not he had a bit of a Oedipus complex… to many abstract mothers and babies than I am comfortable with, can you say mother fixation about one of Britain’s best artists? The sculptures are extremely beautiful and Moore’s ability to create smooth shapes out of stone is outstanding, shapes that just cry out to be touched. But then you get into the war time and post war rooms and it becomes very strange, there are dismembered bodies, sharp edges, darkeness and uncomfortable shapes. I can appreciate his experimental nature and that art should provoke an emotion, but the sculptures in these rooms left me feeling cold and awkward.

What I did enjoy was going around with Anne; because Anne is incredibly creative, she takes art in her stride and it was brilliant talking to her about the pieces and what they meant, in some instances what on earth they were. I particularly enjoyed describing a section of the sculptures as walrus basking in the sun. Look at me being an art critic.

After Moore, we went to the Mike Nelson’s Coral Reef. This freaked me out no end. Rooms, doors, passageways, all with traces of habitation, abandonment and decay. This left me feeling very on edge. I did not enjoy the experience at all, as I hate the idea of not knowing what’s behind a door, and that anything can jump out at me. I was not good in fun houses or ghost trains as a child. I have too much of an overactive imagination. It was fascinating to go through, but I don’t think I took very much of it in, acting like a big scaredy cat on a Friday night… in an art gallery is not cool.

We then went to see some Pre Raphaelites. And I was happy and peaceful and serene. This is the type art that I enjoy. Regardless of some of the uncomfortable art, I really enjoyed my visit and certainly will be going again.  It was also great going to Tate Lates, it was a fantastic atmosphere filled with some interesting and loud live performances and music, and some random cardboard shaped robot dressed people – I dont quite know why, but hey.

What I sadly admit to is, despite being a museums geek and a culture vulture I haven’t been to as many awesome museums and galleries as I would like to. This is going to change, and I am going to make a real effort to go to a variety of museums, ones that have been on my list for ages but I have never had time to visit, rather than going again and again to my old favourites.

One thought on “Moore, Coral Reefs and Cardboard Robots: My first visit to Tate Britain

  1. Glad you enjoyed it. For me, it was the perfect start to my holiday, and I made it home on time for an early enough night to get up for my 4.30am cab to the airport.

    I think everyone has the right to say what they like about art – it’s there to be enjoyed and talked about and shouldn’t be the preserve of people who have studied it. One of the great things you highlight here is the visceral nature of Moore’s sculpture and how he and artists from his generation learned from the plasticity of prehistoric art and art created by people from other parts of the world.

    Spontaneous trips like Friday’s are what makes the Tate’s membership scheme an absolute must for me. So much more fun a deux. 🙂


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