It has been a long day and I am not thinking straight but having spent the day at Tate Modern and especially the new Switch Tower extension with which, I have to say, I am underwhelmed. Of course it can be argued what do I know? And that would be a reasonable argument but to me it symbolises much of the problems this country is facing. It seems that no one thinks it is wrong to splash so much money on an already fabulously supported arts institution and get so little in return. Yet if you were to suggest that the same amount of funding should be spent supporting arts institutions around the country then the metropolitan arts establishment would be in uproar at their loss. Now I didn’t make it up to the viewing platform so it can’t give a fully rounded view, no pun intended, but when does a viewing platform make an art museum?
So what does the tower consist of? Well four floors of artwork that are, at best, ok. Four floors of office space, a floor for Tate members and the viewing platform. I believe the whole thing cost over £200 million, I might be wrong on that figure as I cannot confirm the cost anywhere online – too tired to really try very hard. Nothing about this tower makes any sense to me unless you think that London is the only place where ‘art’ should be seen and that it is the duty of the state to support such a notion. If, however, you believe that the Tate collection has been paid for by the whole of Britain and so it should have art galleries outside of London, I know it has got branches in Liverpool and St Ives but is that the best that can be done? How about a Tate/Yorkshire Sculpture park or a Tate/Baltic Exchange or Tate Scotland or Tate Wales or Tate Belfast? Now I am sure much of the Tate collection is shared with institutions around the country but do any of them see anything like the money spent on what I feel is an Oligarc’s tower? I suspect the answer is no.
One final thought. The Tate holds the Turner bequest for the nation and you would have thought that an ideal place for much of this to be displayed would be at the Turner Contemporary at Margate – you would be wrong. The art establishment wouldn’t allow it and so this fine building fails to achieve its aim of helping to regenerate a neglected corner of Britain. And the establishment wonders why the great unwashed outside of London rebelled against their advice in the referendum campaign. The rule seems to be spend money in London pay lip service to anywhere else. I doubt things will change anytime soon.
Note to myself – this sounds awfully kipperish but the contempt displayed by Tate and their tower would drive anyone towards the frothing purple brigade. I may well wake up in the morning and regret this but…
PS – around 24 hours after I wrote this rant.
I still feel angry by the waste of money – money that would have been better spent outside of London. In fact I think an even better approach would be to move the whole of the Tate institution away from London completely. They should be moved to some brownfield side in the north Midlands or South Yorkshire, perhaps Grimethorpe, which would be the centre of the nation as a whole. They could run Tate expresses from St Pancras as these old industrial areas would have excellent rail links. It won’t happen of course for the same reasons that were poked fun at 30 years ago in Yes Prime Minister even though this would go a long way to really regenerating whole areas of Britain that need the help. So much for the Northern Powerhouse, although I believe that has now been shelved for May’s? I am not sure but if her words meant anything, a huge if as big as the Switch Tower then a cost neutral scheme of moving out of over priced London to ‘cheap’ South Yorkshire. While we’re at it how about a few other moves:
- National Maritime Museum to Portsmouth:
- Imperial War Museum to Duxford:
- Science Museum to Manchester:
- National Theatre to leave the South Bank and became a touring troupe around the country. (Yes Prime Minister been here already and is just as illuminating)
I feel my purple rage starting up again and don’t even get me started on lack of any true local democracy.
It seems that sleeping on something doesn’t make me calm down…I just don’t believe it!