Posted by: expaticainhelvetica | December 4, 2009

Modern art! Makes me! Want to rock out!

I was in London for a total of nine hours this Wednesday.  Not much wiggle room to see one of the largest cities in the world, but plenty of time to do a drive by of the Tate Modern given that it was a five-minute walk from where I had a meeting.

I’m a sucker for modern art.  I love Warhol, Basquiat, Miro, Koons, and Banksy (I find Shepard Fairey, though, to be unoriginal, derivative and highly overrated).  I love how some of it is so accessible to the average viewer (of course, some is so ridiculous, I wonder how it can ever be called art).

Taking some extra time to stop at this world-class museum was definitely a treat and it was FREE to enter (though the special exhibits did cost money), making the art even more accessible to the populous.  I love the fact there were student groups milling about, families corralling small children, and older couples having a cuppa, all surrounded by this wonderful art.

One of the highlights for me included a room full of communist propaganda posters.   Poster art is a personal favorite.  I have a small collection of concert posters by the Ames Brothers and I swoon over art deco-style posters from the early 20th century.

When looking at them objectively, these posters are pure genius.  A majority of the people at the time were illiterate or had very basic reading skills, so the images conveyed a strong message that didn’t need any or many words.  Click here to see one of my favorites from the exhibit.  The writing says “A talent’s way … Give way to a talent.” It made me think of how the communists showcased anyone with talent, be they musicians, ballerinas, or Olympic gymnasts in order to promote the ideology.  Of course, the posters didn’t show anything about the rampant corruption, suppression of free thinking, suppression of religion, or struggle to feed the denizens, but I guess those types of images would defeat the purpose of propaganda.

Another favorite of mine was the Jill Magid exhibit “Authority to Remove.”  The story behind the exhibition is something straight out of James Bond.  Basically, Magid was commissioned by the AIVD (De Algemene Inlichtingen en Veiligheidsdienst – the Dutch secret service) to create a piece of art for their new HQ.  In conducting research for this art, she practically embedded herself in the AIVD, interviewing agents and gathering loads of info for the work.  Well, the output was a piece of art that the AIVD thought divulged a bit too much.  The bureaucracy and censorship she encountered were amazing and really, my crappy little description here will not do it enough justice.  So click here to see information about the book she wanted to publish about the experience but was told not to and click here to see more about the exhbit, which included work done in neon, capturing phrases used by the AIVD to incite fear (my personal favorite – I can burn your face – which means someone can reveal the identity of an undercover agent.).

So there you have it – nine hours in London.  I’m already working with Expatico to plan a proper trip back this winter.



  1. kendra and i loved the tate modern as well. the view from millenium bridge, the private school at the end of the bridge with kids in their uniforms, the dome of st paul’s visible in the skyline. such a great place to walk around!

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