Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Tate Store

When a friend invited me to join her for a tour of the Tate Store, I initially wondered why they were giving tours of a museum shop -- but it turns out that's what the Tate calls their massive storage facility in SE London. I couldn't say no to that!

It was quite an adventure getting there, as it is not only in an unfamiliar neighborhood, but required me to take a train, the Tube, a bus, and then walk about a quarter of a mile to get there from Wimbledon.  Good thing it was in the early afternoon, as I'm not sure I'd want to be walking around that area after dark.  Especially after I came across this on my way there:
A T-34 tank
It's an old Soviet T-34 tank, which is apparently privately owned and is a favorite target of graffiti artists.  Not what you'd normally expect to see in London, but then few things are...
The Tate Store
The Tate Store is housed in a huge, heavily guarded warehouse.  They only give tours once every year or two, and only to museum patrons and their guests, so this was truly a rare treat.   We had a small group of about 15 people, some of whom were museum staff.
The "Gallery"
Our first stop was an area where they had recreated the interior of one of the Tate galleries -- down to the flooring, lighting, ceiling height, and paint color -- so that works of art could be viewed as if they were hanging in the museum.  That makes a difference when you are in a huge industrial warehouse.
"Screen storage" (paintings)
Paintings are stored in "boxes" that are hung on rolling walls in a huge, climate-controlled room.
Henry VII, probably up to no good
Even though each wall is about 12 feet high and 18 feet wide, our guide, who was about my size, was able to pull them out and push them back into place by herself.  Because storage space is at a premium, they are hung wherever space is available rather than organized thematically, so works from the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern can be seen side-by-side.
assortment of paintings
Particularly large paintings are removed from their frames and stored on giant rollers, although our guide says this is not ideal.  At the moment, they have a Watts stored in this manner.  I was disappointed not to be able to see it, after having visited his gorgeous art gallery near Guildford.
Rolled paintings
The air in the sculpture room felt much dryer, as these works don't require the same humidity as paintings.  We recognized a couple Henry Moore sculptures right by the door...
Henry Moores
But the majority of the art in this room was packed in large yellow crates.  Perhaps one of them contains the lost Ark of the Covenant...
Not much to see here...
I was intrigued by the signs stenciled on the crates.  I get that it should be protected from direct sunlight and rain, but what "element" does the goblet represent? 
In England, alcoholic beverages are one of the elements
Overall, the talk was a bit more interesting than the tour, since we couldn't see much of the artwork, but I was still thrilled to have had the opportunity to take a peek behind the scenes.  (Thanks, Stacie!)

1 comment:

  1. The goblet represents the warning, "Fragile".

    Julie in San Diego


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