I love the Tate Modern.
It might not be the easiest museum to access, but it is definitely one not to miss.
The nearest Tube stations are Southwark, Blackfriars, St Paul and London Bridge. So after a walk, you will finally face a building that you can’t miss, as it looks like an old factory.
In fact, the Tate Modern used to be the Bankside Power Station, a former oil-fired power station, which generated electricity from 1952 to 1981.
In 1994, the site was selected to host the new gallery for international modern and contemporary art in London and the architects that were chosen decided to conserve most of the external and internal structure of the power station.
I have to admit that I don’t really like the building itself, but it is nonetheless far better than the Centre Pompidou in Paris. This is of course only my opinion!
I first went to the Tate Modern last year to see the amazing Retrospective about Lichtenstein.
This year, I was very interested by the exhibition about Matisse’s Cut Outs but almost missed it.
Indeed, the last day will be on Sunday the 7th of September. Fortunately, I saw many reminders on busses; if I really wanted to go, it was now or never.
I finally decided myself to go last Wednesday, after my Early shift and before my 2 days off. I was pretty tired but didn’t want to waste my afternoon by taking a nap or being on my computer. I took the Tube to Southwark and walked for about 10 min.
I didn’t ordered my ticket online because I wasn’t 100% sure to go before the end of my shift but also because it seemed to have availability for all time slots on that day. I only queued for 10 min before getting my precious ticket.
Matisse (1869 – 1954) was a French artist, known for his use of colour and his fluid and original draughtsmanship. He was a draughtsman, printmaker and sculptor, but is known primarily as a painter. Matisse is commonly regarded, along with Pablo Picasso (his friend and rival) as one of the artists who opened the way for modern art.
But what is interesting is that Matisse was not meant to be an artist.
He studied law and worked as a clerk. He only started to paint in 1889, after his mother brought him art supplies during a period of convalescence following an attack of appendicitis. He discovered “a kind of paradise” as he later described it, and decided to become an artist, deeply disappointing his father.
Although he began his craft later in life than most artists, Matisse continued to create and innovate well into his eighties.
In 1941, he was diagnosed with cancer and, following surgery, he started using a wheelchair.
He turned to paper cut-outs because it was physically more manageable and offered a new potential for expression. By manoeuvring scissors through prepared sheets of painted paper called “gouaches découpées”, he inaugurated a new phase of his career. Paper cut-outs symbolized for Matisse the synthesis of drawing and painting. It encouraged him to simplify forms even further, distilling the object’s “essential character” until it became a symbol of itself.
After having cut of the shapes, the second part of the creative process entailed his assistants pinning the cut pieces of paper to the walls of his studio. When the desired balance of form and colour was achieved, the finished composition was glued to some type of support such as paper, canvas, or board.
At the entrance of the exhibition, I was given a small leaflet with the most important information. It is a nice touch because you can keep it as a souvenir but also because it prevent from having many people pack together trying to read the boards (often written in a too small font). If you want to have further information, you have the possibility to rent an audio-guide.
The exhibition is composed of 14 rooms, each one with a different theme, such as Oceania, the Blue Nudes or the Snail.
After a bit more than 1 hour, I was out again and I can say that I really enjoyed my time.
The color were sublime and the arrangements splendid.
This exhibition also brought back very old memories, when I was about 8-9 years old and visited Vence with my French grand-mother, where Matisse lived but also designed from scratch the Chapelle du Rosaire, which he considered as his masterpiece.
For a break between 2 exhibitions or before leaving, I’ll recommend you to go to the Expresso bar on the 3rd floor; it offers a wonderful view over the Thames and St Paul Cathedral.
Then, before leaving the building, visit the Main Shop on level 0 to buy original and instructive presents for your relatives and/or yourself. It offers the widest range of books on modern art and culture in the UK with a fantastic range for children and a stunning display of merchandise. I sometimes only come to the Tate Modern to visit the shop.
Once outside, you’ll have the possibility to take the Millenium Bridge to reach St Paul Cathedral or to walk along the Southbank, both are nice alternatives.
If you’re in London before Sunday the 7th of September, run to see this exhibition!