Tate’s brand spanking new building, the Switch House, will pave the way for more variety, more international exposure and give the public what they want – more art!
Since Tate opened in 2000 to the public it has attracted more than 5 million visitors each year, and has become a shining symbol of London’s art culture. Designed by architects Herzog and De Meuron, Tate’s £260 million expansion, the Switch House, has several floors, four of which are filled with art. Wandering through the Tanks space for performing arts, you’re greeted with this radial brutalist staircase to further levels and beyond. We were lazy, so we got the lifts. Working our way from the top, this stunning and radically designed monument boasts 360 degree views of London’s iconic skyline. And it is stunning. Experiencing this view for free was a real treat and certainly a highlight of what the Switch House has to offer.
Feeling invigorated from the fresh London air, we headed down to the many exhibition spaces, including ‘Living Cities’, a collective show of artists from around the world, examining the modern city. And Louise Bourgeois Artist Room display was an impactful and psychologically intense show. You would expect nothing less.
What’s critical about the Switch House is it gives the Tate the momentous, high vaulted ceilings and much needed space for the public to congregate, communicate and enjoy more art. Not all the art however can be enjoyed.
The Switch House may have extended the Tate’s floor space to house more art, but as public spaces go, it still feels exclusive and elitist. Alike to downloading a free app, only to realise the ridiculous in-app purchases needed to get any further and enjoy the game fully.
Quelle surprise, the majority of exhibitions will be costly, setting you back, on average, around £14 a ticket. So feel free (quite literally) to wander in the public spaces and the resident Tate collections; anything more you will have to cough up heavily, and pay for a ticket to join the art elite.
More government funding is needed for the Tate (and in the arts) to be fully accessible to everyone, on any budget. Will Self’s article in the Guardian gives a stark and unequivocal view on Tate’s new extension and symbolises the inequality ever present in London. Not necessarily the price of a ticket, but how rich artists have infiltrated the gallery, influencing curatorial practice and pushing lowly, poor artists out.
Public galleries have often accepted artworks as donations, but in the 1990s they began accepting such donations from the artists themselves, and then putting them on display. This represented a flagrant disregard for curatorial standards, and registered the exact point at which the hyper-rich artists and their still more moneyed dealers began to call the tune – henceforth the “crap” silting up public galleries would be deposited there by the ebb and flow of finance rather taste.
He goes on to mention these new mega-structures powering the London skyline and describes the Tate as:
… another spatialisation of the savage inequality that’s coming to typify 21st-century London. Working people on modest to low incomes and the unwaged may no longer be able to afford to live in the city, but their children can at least get to experience for a few hours the aristocratic lifestyle of strolling about and looking at expensive stuff.
Whatever your thoughts on the Tate and the turn of contemporary art, the Switch House is a triumph for the London art scene and will be enjoyed by millions, like it’s big brother, for years to come.