I finally visited the Gauguin exhibition at Tate Modern this evening after having walked away three times seeing how packed it was in there. On one day they were open late, it was sold out until 7pm by 3pm. It’s probably attracting potentially twice as many people as the whole of the rest of the gallery. There might have been 500 or more visitors merely during this evening.
If you are still planning to go, don’t expect too many major works. This exhibition is more like a biography than a retrospective, following the life of the man and his travels. Many of the exhibits are preparatory works, sketches, prints, and further sections looking at publications and photographs which give a background view to Gauguin’s life and subject matters.
As is becoming increasingly common of exhibitions of masters or modern masters, lots of artefacts of the artist are on show. As fame stikes, people value anything that person has touched. Included in this exhibition is a painting case, a pair of wooden shoes similar to clogs and several pots. Whilst it may be of some interest to see the subject matter of the work, not all these were even seen by Gauguin. However, sat in their glass cases I couldn’t help but feel they seem to have been co-opted as valuable artworks in their own right like Duchampian readymades.
I couldn’t help but wonder if Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds was inspired by The Little One is Dreaming. Similarly Greta Alfaro’s video In Ictu Oculi (2009) at the Bloomberg New Contemporaries exhibition at the ICA (further review to come) shows a flock of vultures devour open air banquet. This perhaps has popular culture references to the vultures in Walt Disney’s animated Snow White, whilst Disney‘s Mary Poppins song Let’s Go Fly A Kite is brought to mind by the last work I’d like to mention, also seen at Tate Modern on floor 5, Lucia Nogueira’s Smoke (1996). However this has a darker feel from the use of black objects in her installation; two huts distributing black kites or umbrellas a black bench and black flags on a golf course. We are left to analyse what is significant about the colour black, what does it mean to us (think Black Friday?) or is it about the tradional means of producing black and white films, colouring things to stand out as clearly as possible? The black stepladder however feels more positive with its positioning; is it there to climb to a higher plane, get a better view, or to reach heaven?