If you’ve been to Tate Britain over the past year, you may have noticed the gallery’s efforts to shield its restoration project from view. Until early this week, its corridors have been filled with oversized information signs pointedly guiding around us around peculiar routes through the spaces and – always hilarious – tarpaulins printed with impressions of the room- or building-to-come, weirdly distorted as they strain uncomfortably over awkward scaffolding.
Tate Britain has now revealed the products of its labours, and to a resoundingly positive critical reception. The walls of the beautiful, top-lit galleries have been repainted a paradisiacal egg-shell blue, the floors waxed and the dark marble detailing polished to a high shine. It’s a brilliant setting for the history of British art, which is represented by display which have been re-organised to hang chronologically, according to the year the works were made.
This re-hang moves away from the application of ‘movements’ or broad cultural terms which, when retrospectively applied, can be misleading or restrictive of individual interpretation. There are no information panels, only a single date heading up each room. Instead of spending most of the visit peering at the writing on the wall, we are encouraged to look at the objects of art themselves, consider their means of production and kind of the British society for which they were made.
One of the greatest things about Tate’s big re-vamped re-hang is that there is no rush to take it all in at once. There isn’t any pending last weekend or last-chance-to-see, no waiting for that long bank holiday to come around. Take an old school British picnic down to the river before a wander around the collection, pop in on your lunch break, or complete the British experience with an early evening pint of locally brewed ale at a nearby pub. The collection is open all day and every day and, as always, admission is free. (Words: Florence Ritter)
For more info, visit: www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-britain