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  • Various images from the Tate Modern
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  • Various images from the Tate Modern
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Walk Description

Tate Modern is the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art and our tour is not only a perfect starting point for anyone who hopes to get their head around twentieth-century art – a period that saw a proliferation of different artistic movements and styles – but also a wonderfully stimulating challenge to the way we traditionally think about the world, whether it be how we perceive things, what truth and reality is, or what it means to be a human being...to name but a few!

We will begin by discussing the history of Tate Modern and the conversion into and opening of the gallery in a disused power station in 2000. We will also look into the history of the area, Southwark, and its historical associations with entertainment and industry. Once inside, we will spend some time in the Turbine Hall and consider the current Unilever installation before moving into the permanent collection. As we move around the gallery, we will discuss Tate Modern's ground-breaking hang, which challenges the convention of displaying art chronologically and is instead organised around four wings, each of which is centered on a seminal artistic moment of the twentieth century.

On our tour through twentieth-century art, we will discuss why certain styles and movements proliferated at this time and examine different artists and works in relation to not only the artistic tradition but also to the socio-political climate of the period. We will begin with early challenges to traditional modes of painting, focusing on Cubism, which was pioneered by Picasso and Braque and which questioned the way in which we perceive things, alongside the works of the colourist Henri Matisse, who wanted his art to have the effect of a good armchair on a tired businessman. Tate Modern has one of the finest Surrealist collections in the world; in relation to works by Dali, Magritte, and Miro, we will discuss the beginnings of the movement in the 1920s, its attempts to produce an art of the unconscious, and its ability to question our ideas about reality. Giacometti's sculptures of slender figures will begin an inquiry into how the trauma of World War I and World War II affected modes of representing the human figure as well as the relationship between art and humanity.

We will also look at Marcel Duchamp's radical use of unconventional materials and ready-made objects in the early 1900s and his influence on mid-twentieth century artists such as Andy Warhol, who represents pop art and how it challenged consumer culture; Joseph Beuys, who represents conceptual art and its emphasis of idea over object; and Donald Judd, who represents minimalism and its strongly abstracted works using modern, industrial materials. Last but not least, we will examine works by contemporary practitioners, considering not only their context, but also their place in the trajectory of twentieth-century art.


Duration: 3 hours
Category: Art
Venues: Tate Modern
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    Janine Catalano

    Janine's love of food can be dated to the tender age of three, when she deemed that Brie baguettes were her preferred snack of choice. While studying visual art and writing at the University of Pennsylvania, she also worked on the university magazine's Food and Drink section, and her passion for all three arts intensified during a semester spent in Rome. After completing her BA, she picked up for Europe again, this time heading to London. Janine received an MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art, specializing in food in early 20th century art movements. She continues to spend her time appreciating London's countless cultural offerings and debunking the myth that London is a culinary wasteland, and loves any opportunity to share her finds with others.

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    Eowyn Kerr

    Eowyn is originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico. She holds an MA in Art Conservation from the State University of New York at Buffalo, specializing in the conservation and restoration of Italian Renaissance panel paintings, and an MA in the History of Art from the Courtauld Institute in London. Her experience includes everything from the restoration of 2nd century frescoes to Baroque ceiling paintings, and she was awarded a Kress Fellowship in 2007 to conserve Florentine cassoni (15th century wedding chests) for the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Eowyn teaches as adjunct faculty in Art History at the American University in Rome and lectures on international conservation practices and ethics. She now divides her time between Rome and London and her expertise in art history, artistic materials, and painting techniques allows her to discuss the creation of artworks within Rome's Vatican Collections and Galleria Borghese, and London's National Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

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    Sarah Ciacci

    Sarah Ciacci has lived and worked in London all her life, but pops over to Rome fairly often. After completing her MA in History of Art at University College London, specialising in late 19th Century French Painting and mid 20th Century Art, she has worked in different areas of the contemporary art world in both London and Rome, before deciding to focus on gallery education. This necessitated a far greater knoweldge base, so Sarah trained to be a guide and qualified as a City of London Guide and as a Blue Badge Tourist Guide in 2008. She now works as a guide, specialising in Museums and Galleries as well as tours for children and young people, she teaches courses in art history and the history of London at the University of Richmond and works as a gallery educator at the National Portrait Gallery and the Dulwich Picture Gallery, specialising in tours for older people and people with Dementia.

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    Sue King

    Sue King was born a Londoner and has lived in several other cities including Seoul, Berlin and Washington DC. Since returning to London, she has spent the last three years studying its art, architecture, literature and history.
    Sue holds a research MPhil in History of Art from the Barber Institute, Birmingham University and has specialist knowledge of Victorian Britain through her study of its painting and literature. Her thesis, on symbolism in Victorian Art, focused on the work of the Pre-Raphaelites and she has also made studies in 20th Century American art.
    Sue is fascinated by London's history and is most interested in the artists and writers who have helped to define it. She loves to recount stories of their lives and works, and their connections with each other and the city.

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    Philippa Owen

    Philippa is an Oxford educated historian with specialist training in Art History. A qualified teacher with over 15 years experience as a resident guide and teacher at Dulwich Picture Gallery. For the last two years she has been on an intensive course learning about this great city. A Londoner all her adult life, she enjoys all aspects of the city, from the architecture to the food markets, from the parks and riverside walks to the galleries and city churches. Her particular interests are the quirkier, less well-known places which only a long standing Londoner gets to know.

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    Lawrence Owens

    Lawrence travelled and excavated extensively in Israel, Jordan and Egypt before attending the University of Durham where he studied archaeology. He specialised in ancient human remains during his Masters' at Liverpool University Medical School, followed by a year of travel and excavation in the UK and Africa. He won a scholarship to attend University College London, where he wrote his Doctorate on ancient populations of the Western Mediterranean basin and the Canary Islands. He currently lecture at Birkbeck College, University of London. He carries out research at London's Natural History Museum and spends several months each year working on a major archaeological project in Peru. He is also connected with excavations in Egypt, Bolivia, California, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Spain, where he works with a forensic unit recovering the fallen from the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War. In addition to his research, he has interests in the classical world, ancient Assyria, geology, palaeontology, twentieth century art history and the history of London.

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    Kevin Childs

    Kevin Childs has worked as a publisher, an actor and a research consultant. Having gained a first class degree in English Literature at Oxford and an MA at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, he has completed a PhD at the Courtauld examining the ways in which Michelangelo influenced the art of his contemporaries. Although his heart is in the Renaissance, his interests range from Greek and Roman classical literature to the art of twentieth-century Mexico. Kevin has lived in London for over 20 years and has a great passion for the city, its history and all that it currently offers. He has also spent extended periods of time in Italy, Greece, Turkey, Mexico, Egypt and Morocco. He writes regularly on art and travel.

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    Chris Clarke

    Chris Clarke has taught Art all his working life and for over thirty years taught at Westminster School in the heart of London right by Westminster Abbey. He was trained at Bath Academy of Art famous for training teachers in a particular way that has visual communication at it's centre. A self taught Art Historian Chris believes the work of other artists as well as looking at the world around us should inspire our own efforts seeing their work in relation to our own.He spends his time between working in London and working in Sussex where he has his studio.His own work done in various media is very much rooted in the urban and rural landscapes where he lives and he is much influenced by the work of British artists of the twentieth century, for example Ben Nicholson, John Piper and David Jones. Like most artists sketch books are where his ideas first see the light of day and he is keen that all his students use these note books as a record of those first encounters with our response to the subject before us,and as a reminder of the places and people we see which may reappear in the final art pieces we create.

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    will lunn

    Will Lunn organised his first exhibition, including two internationally renowned artists, aged just seventeen. He has previously worked at a number of London galleries, before he set up Sumarria Lunn Gallery with Vishal Sumarria at twenty. After Sumarria Lunn, at twenty-five he opened Copperfield, an independent contemporary art gallery just south of Tate Modern. He is a graduate of the Courtauld Institute of Art and prior to becoming a curator and gallerist, he has been exhibited both in England and abroad as an artist working under another name. He sees his work as a curator as an extension of that practice - bringing pre-existing objects with pre-existing concepts together in a space to create new meaning.

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    anna harnden tryon

    Anna Harnden is an independent curator working on historic and contemporary exhibitions for public institutions such as the British Museum as well as contemporary commercial exhibitions at her own gallery. Having lived in London for over eight years and working within and with many of its institutions, Anna enjoys providing the occasional 'behind the scenes' moments as part of her tours.

    Throughout her career she has curated exhibitions and displays for the British Museum including Treasures of Heaven: Saints, relics and devotion in Medieval Europe and historic and contemporary collections in Treasures of the World's Culture. Prior to this she managed the Southwark Art Collection and worked at The Wallace Collection. Whilst studying for a BA in History of Art and an MA in curating at the Courtauld Institute she co-curated the contemporary art exhibition East Wing VIII On Time including Anthony Gormley and Mark Wallinger and the exhibition Once Upon a Time Artists and Storytelling including Paul Gauguin and Tracey Emin.