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Tate Modern Review

September 2021

I recently visited London, and took full advantage of the fantastic art it has to offer. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love the Tate Modern and most of the collection that they have to offer.

I will be focusing in this blog post on three of my favourite pieces I was so lucky to see in the flesh.

Fountain, Marcel Duchamp

Whilst doing my BA Hons, my peers and I would laugh and be bewildered by one of our tutor's fascination with what is essentially, a signed urinal. When looking further in to the symbolism and reasonings behind it, I started to understand why he held a urinal so close to his heart.

'Fountain' is arguably one of Duchamp's most famous works, unfortunately the original being lost. This was just a standard urinal, the Tate offering a replica created around 45 years after.

The initial idea for this odd piece of work came from a discussion with a collector and artist.

He bought it and the name it was under to be submitted by R Mutt to an art institute to exhibit.

This was of course veto'd as 'not art' and 'inappropriate' to which he rebelled.

He stated: "Mutt comes from Mott Works, the name of a large sanitary equipment manufacturer. But Mott was too close so I altered it to Mutt, after the daily cartoon strip “Mutt and Jeff” which appeared at the time, and with which everyone was familiar. Thus, from the start, there was an interplay of Mutt: a fat little funny man, and Jeff: a tall thin man ... I wanted any old name. And I added Richard [French slang for money-bags]. That’s not a bad name for a pissotière. Get it? The opposite of poverty. But not even that much, just R. MUTT." (Camfield 1989, p.23.)

Duchamp submitted this as he thought it had the smallest likelihood of being received well, and is stated saying 'I was drawing people’s attention to the fact that art is a mirage. A mirage, exactly like an oasis appears in the desert. It is very beautiful until, of course, you are dying of thirst. But you don’t die in the field of art. The mirage is solid.’ (Otto Hahn, ‘Entretien Marcel Duchamp’, Paris-Express, 23 July 1964, p.22.)

My tutors love turned in to my own, for something as stupid and ordinary as a urinal, started to arise questions within the beliefs and structures around art.

Selected Wall Collages, Mary Beth Edelson

The second piece I fell in love with is a wall installation of 146 different collages, by Mary Beth Edelson. It represents women in different times and cultures across time. It was made over 39 years (from 1972).

In person, it takes up maybe 7ft of the wall space, inviting you to look closer at the merged together iconography. All of which is unique, but some collages are repeated on the wall.

Edelson stated that in the 1970s her main interests were in ‘claiming the right to control, define, and enjoy my own body … delving into the sacred … [and] working toward social change in an asymmetrical culture making the political aspects of identity and the female body visible.’ (Quoted in Cottingham, The State University of New York 2002, pp.170–1.)

Guerrilla Girls Review The Whitney, Guerrilla Girls

The final in this review (and my favourite) was a group of work from The Guerrilla Girls. They are

an anonymous female artist group started in 1984 whose main purpose is to shine exposure discrimination in the art world. They hide their identities by wearing gorilla masks in public.

My favourite part about this work is that they reclaimed the visual language and typography of advertisements, to use a familiar format to completely bring down wrongdoings in the world and make justice prevalent.

This is a copy of the posters they used in retaliation to being invited to The Whitney in 1987 exposing the galleries poor track record of showcasing women and POC in art.


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