December 31: psychological markers

I was at the Tate Modern complex yesterday evening and saw the new extension for the first time. Tate Modern is now a gargantuan complex dedicated to the cause of the modern sensibility. It is mostly a labyrinth of bars and restaurants, lifts and stairways,lobbies and passageways, plus the shops, and then the galleries. It puts me more in mind of the Westfield shopping centre. A middle=class place to hang out in. My six-year-old goddaugher Clara referred to the turbine hall as the play area and that is what it mostly is. Kids doing handstands or playing tag on the long, impact-cushioning carpet. The art you just walk through; it’s an obstacle that stops you getting to the shop or the bar or the viewing gallery. When we look at the art what we are mostly recognising are things we already know about. It is not the business of new revelations. Here’s that spider by Louise Bourgeois; here’s Marilyn Monroe in yellow signed Andy Warhol. ‘ Can tick them off my list now. The feeling they evoke is the smug nostalgia of recognition. Why not take a picture of them on your i-phone? Then there’s proof. Seeing these things, like buying this year’s jeans at the Westfield centre, is a psychological marker. These are appropriate things to see. You have fulfilled your cultural quotient as a primate from your socio-economic tranche. It does not need to touch you. It is accomplished.

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