To Tate Modern, to view the Matisse ‘cut-outs’.
Also, in my case, to view Tate Modern from the inside. I’d spent many a happy lunch hour(ish) admiring the Bankside Power Station, amongst many other attractions (St Paul’s, the Cannon Street station San Gimignano-esque towers, many passing young girls) from the riverfront platform of the Anchor, back in the late 70s when I worked in a (thankfully) long-gone Seifert office block called New London Bridge House on roughly the site of what is now the Shard (about which, externally, I love everything except its location… but that’s another story).
Anyway, I’d never been inside Bankside Power Station before yesterday. Not back then, obviously – it was still generating pollution until 1981. (I’d love to have seen that turbine hall full of humming oil turbines.) Frankly, I was a bit disappointed. It’s all a bit too organised, corporate – I like my museums and galleries to be intimate, a bit chaotic, even tactile. Go to Burrell in Glasgow, Lyme Regis, or (if you’re venturing to foreign parts) the Wilson Museum in Narberth. I’m being churlish, I know – the scale of the Tate Modern project is stupendous. But I found myself people-watching rather than absorbing the art on roped-off display. And I couldn’t find the Rothkos. Bah! (Though a single stumbled-upon Bacon portrait was sufficient compensation.)
And the Matisse? Well, you have to admire the energy (although he did have a lot of help), and the film of him carving the precise form out of the huge sheet of coloured paper with a pair of scissors, like Michelangelo with his marble and chisels, removing the irrelevant bits to expose the vision within, was enthralling. But there were too few Davids, too much wallpaper. Maybe a couple of dozen images out of hundreds (the famous ones, obviously) jumped out and lodged in my emotional memory. A small exhibition of the few undoubted masterpieces, rather than hundreds of bits of work-in-progress. Too much is too little.
It was great to wander along the Bankside though, soaking up the sights and the sounds. (Buskers seem to be actively encouraged, except where they’re banned.) The views across the river have evolved, mostly upwards (the Gherkin is now dwarfed by the Cheesegrater, St Paul’s dwarfed by both – although it’s interesting how the cathedral re-asserts itself the closer you get, across the wibbly-wobbly millennium bridge).
A faint memory of an old cartoon: two old geezers leaning on a gate, gazing across open fields. “I remember when this was all Banks.”