Tate Modern to restage 1971 show that sent art-lovers into a frenzy

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The Tate Gallery provoked a national debate in 1971 with a show where visitors seesawed, slid, balanced, climbed and crawled around the exhibits. It closed after only four days because of the totally unexpected public response. Visitors ran riot, screaming, injuring themselves and generally forgetting that they were British and in a supposedly serious art gallery.

Even so, the art critic Guy Brett, writing in The Times a few days later, suggested that, despite the “pandemonium . . . it would be logical and valuable to continue (the project) as a discussion between the artist, the Tate staff and the public”.

Now, after 38 years, Brett is to get his wish, as Tate Modern prepares to restage the show for a new generation of visitors. Robert Morris, the American conceptual artist who mounted the original show, is reconfiguring his designs for the Turbine Hall.

Morris, who is 78, will be operating in an exhibition space, and for a popular audience, that could barely have been imagined in 1971.

The original exhibition filled the Duveen Galleries at the Tate building on Millbank with large geometric objects, sculptures and architectural elements that the public were invited to interact with physically — a first for the gallery. The objects were built using raw, unfinished materials, including logs and bits of chipboard, with predictable results.

As Michael Compton, the curator, later recalled: “It was the last room that was the source of most trouble. This was made up almost entirely of very rough plywood. It was the last days of the miniskirt, and girls tended to slide down. We, I mean our female first-aid staff, would be picking splinters out of the backsides of these girls.”

Bodyspacemotionthings, the show’s 2009 incarnation, will be a safer affair, constructed with contemporary design methods and materials, including plywood, rubber elements and solid steel structures to meet health and safety standards...

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