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Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 14:21 GMT 15:21 UK
Figuring it out at Tate Modern
Turbine Hall
The Turbine Hall creates a huge challenge for curators
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By Keily Oakes
BBC News Online
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The Tate Modern gallery has opened its new exhibition in its vast Turbine Hall, showing off its own collection of nude sculptures.

Entitled The Upright Figure, this is the first time the gallery has not commissioned a new piece for the exhibition hall, instead preferring to draw on its largely unseen works.

Turning the Turbine Hall into a creative space is no mean feat. The gallery, which opened in 2000, is housed inside a former power station.

The Turbine Hall runs the full-length of the gallery, with its very high ceilings and natural sunlight making a striking entrance.

But it is also a difficult space to exhibit art without it getting lost in the vastness. Previous exhibitions have seen larger installations employed.

Venus with a Necklace
Aristide Maillol began work on Venus with a Necklace around 1918, but it was not cast until 1930
The thinking behind the new exhibition was to display sculptures of the human body from the past 100 years, from Thomas Brock's Eve of 1900 to Antony Gormley's 1990 piece A Case for an Angel III - a precursor to his Angel in the North work.

Jamie Fobert was brought in as the architect with a specific brief of displaying the 20 or so sculptures in such a way that the public could interact at a certain level, but were in no danger of damaging the works of art.

Capacious surroundings

His solution was to place steel sheeting on the floor and turn up the sides, thus creating a natural barrier.

He also added two 4.5 metre high walls to give the exhibition a slight feeling of enclosure, ensuring the statues are not lost in their capacious surroundings.

"It is exciting to see people walking, or school children sketching, inbetween the fields because from a distance it adds the extra dimension of blurring the lines between art and reality," said Mr Fobert.

Unusually, the majority of the statues are placed at ground level and not on plinths.

All the sculptures are life-size - although not necessarily lifelike and are divided into three, displayed on separating steel sheets.

Innocence

The first is a collection of five statues dating from 1900 to 1916, including works by Auguste Renoir and James Harvard Thomas, showing the tradition of the period for life-like figures.

Brock's Eve, which is made in stone, is an impressive sight, with innocence and vulnerability in the beautiful form.

Forging VIII
David Smith's Forging VIII represents a more interpretive era of sculpture
Curators Matthew Gale and Frances Morris decided early on in the concept stage that they would stick to nude statues, an effective way of whittling down the enormous list of works they started with.

The second section is devoted to works spanning the middle of the century, from Alberto Giacometti's Walking Woman, started in 1939, to William Turnbull's Idols, from 1956.

There is a stark contrast between these works and the earlier, more classical ones. These are much more interpretative of the human form.

Shift back

Barbara Hepworth's Single Form would not be instantly recognisable as a body but placed amid such a collection, it becomes obvious what the bronze symbolises.

The third field demonstrates the shift back to sculptures in the more traditional form.

Leonard McComb's Portrait of a Young Man Standing, cast in bronze, but looking every inch golden, is an exquisite example of 20th century craftsmanship.

As an added bonus there are three Henry Moores on display on the bridge above the space; Draped Seated Figure, Woman and Seated Woman: Thin Neck.

The Upright Figure continues at the Tate Modern until 31 August.

See also:

01 Nov 01 | Arts
Tate Britain goes public
30 Oct 01 | Arts
Tate galleries' success story
23 Mar 00 | UK
Artists unveil Tate Britain
25 Oct 01 | Arts
Tate Modern wins Blair's award
12 Oct 01 | Arts
The Brits and modern art
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