The new Tate Modern extension is a kind of brutalism-lite. A ziggurat shape outside, with latticed brickwork:
Inside it's all bare wood and bare concrete:
I quite like it. And it's certain to attract loads of visitors: especially now, with London set to become a destination of choice for Europeans taking advantage of a weak pound.
Which is a problem. Because what they're all flooding to see - or at least what they were all flooding to see this morning - is the 10th floor viewing terrace, looking out over the London skyline. And why not? It's free, and it's spectacular:
The problem? The lifts.
They've built two ranks of four lifts: one side going up to level 4, for the galleries; the other side going up to level 10, and the viewing terrace. They're not large lifts. The gallery ones, up to level 4, are barely used. The other side - the ones going up to level 10 and the terrace - are completely jam-packed. I tried to get on at level 2, and had to let two pass before losing patience (they're not fast, and they don't come often) and squeezing myself in to the third, to much tutting and raising of eyebrows.
Couldn't they have foreseen this? Apparently not. The planners appear to have been so taken in with the prospect of all these cultural tourists rushing to see the new galleries that the viewing terrace seems to have been added as a kind of afterthought, with the assumption that a few hardy souls might venture up after soaking in the latest artworks, but no more than that. Instead, clearly, the terrace is by far the main attraction.
Which is only to be expected. There are no Mona Lisas inside to draw the crowds. Instead what they're offered is the familiar dry conceptual art, earnestly presented by our art-school curators as ground-breaking, subversive, etc. etc.. But no one's interested.
Even the macaws have left - like the ravens departing the Tower of London:
In the Between Object and Architecture gallery the artworks on the gallery floor are necessarily separated from the descriptions on the wall. These descriptions are almost interchangeable - "creating spaces....dynamic interactions....the viewer becoming part of the artwork" - making it difficult to establish which description applies to which work. I had a vision of a randomly generated set of descriptions placed haphazardly around the gallery, with no connection to any of the works on display, to see what the reaction might be of the bemused visitors.
But really, it wouldn't make much difference. They're bemused anyway.