A man who had scarcely considered the words ‘modern’ or ‘art’ before, never mind in the same phrase or sentence, reported a distressing experience at the newly expanded Tate Modern after staring hopelessly for five hours at the Seagram Murals by Mark Rothko.
Tate Modern recently unveiled the Switch House, a monolithic extension designed by Herzog & de Meuron and built at a cost of £260 million. With The Tanks in the basement described as the first galleries in the world permanently dedicated to live art and installations, across four levels the Switch House will allow the museum to show an additional 60% of its collection, with due space now devoted to women.
The reopening of Tate Modern was met with a record number of visitors. But for one gentleman, enticed by all the publicity to make his first visit to this or any other museum, the experience was full of confusion and stress.
The man – who wishes to remain anonymous – stood for hour upon hour inside the dark confines of the room devoted to Rothko, apparently mistaking the Seagram Murals for a live exhibit. He presumed that the artist was imminently to emerge from within one of the canvases, not knowing that Rothko – who was born in 1903 regardless – committed suicide in February 1970, slicing his arms with a razor and overdosing on anti-depressants.
After several hours of eager anticipation, as the man began to feel that this was at best an all-too-leisurely performance, he came to wonder whether this could instead be a video piece, as the dingy red and maroon murals manipulated his eyes and seemed to move backwards and forwards in front of him.
His remarkable degree of patience was apparently abetted last summer, when he stumbled upon a BBC Four slow television special on the forging of metal. Making things worse, the man was only in London for the weekend, noting that his plans – before their utter disruption – had included at least a couple of hours hanging about the gates of Buckingham Palace.
Still seeing red and decidedly sleepy, his date with the Queen has been put off for another time. A spokesman for the Tate promised additional signage, and a dedicated member of staff who will be responsible for identifying static visitors and improving their circulation.