Monday 14 April 2014

Ruin Lust at Tate Britain

An exhibition examining the seduction of ruins, the romance they invoke, and the beautiful artwork inspired by them. Sounds intriguing, no? I had high hopes for this, what seemed to me a rather unusual choice for an exhibition (though following on from Art Under Attack, the Tate seems all about destruction and decay at the moment). Linking in to the Grand Tours of the eighteenth century, and the desire of past generations to capture the beauty of ruins in their gardens, there was definitely potential here. 

The first room greeted you with the imposing Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum by John Martin. A picture that invokes images of the depths of Hell, this was one I couldn't take my eyes off, and came back to. Unfortunately, however, this, for me at least, was the highlight of the exhibition. The rooms didn't feel particularly well thought out, a jumble of pieces from all different time periods and movements, and no solid element linking them together. There were some rough themes, but it just didn't sit very well. The more modern pieces were sparse, and sometimes haunting, but often forgettable, and I'm sure the selection could have been improved with a few choice additions. 

Ruination never ceases to capture the imagination, and I feel a lot more could have been done with this. There were a few nice quotes on the walls, but when the quotes outshine some of the art, you know something's gone wrong. There were some nice pieces on display, but it wasn't all particularly strong, and I found the overall experience underwhelming. I'm sorry to say I wouldn't recommend this one.

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