The film series, #UnlockArt, produced by Tate and supported by Le Meridien, concluded with the release of the last of eight films, What's So Funny?, decided by an online poll. It was a lighthearted end (though humour was present in each narrative) to a series that achieved exactly what it set out to do. Sharp-witted writers, charismatic presenters we all know, first class production and astute directors addressed topics such as How to Buy Art, Where are the Women? and Pop Art, making high art easy to understand and enjoyable.
Clearly, I'm a huge fan of the series, I really can't say enough about it. I spent four years in university studying art and art history, and I thought performance art was, well, kind of rubbish to be honest. Misguided weirdos wanting attention and calling it art. That's how I saw it because I didn't understand it. Usually I take the attitude that something shouldn't be dismissed unless you do your part in trying to wrap your head around it, but in this case I felt my assertion was valid. It so happened that the debut film in the series addressed this very subject, and in a matter of five minutes I finally understood what I hadn't been able to get my head around for years. Performance art still isn't my thing, but I get it now, I've made friends with it, and I can appreciate its cultural influence and the place it holds in art history. What a great way to begin.
And here is the room where the #UnlockArt series officially wrapped up, in Le Meridien's opulent, violet-tinged, Adams Room where all eight films ran on a loop on the wall, providing the backdrop to a fantastic, #UnlockArt-themed dinner, created by Chef de Cuisne Michael Dutnall:
Franz served up his delicious cocktails, some of the molecular variety:
Le Meridien's Chef de Cuisine Michael Dutnall
Our sorbet palate cleansers (in this case it could be palette as well?) were served in mini shopping bags marked SOLD to tie in with the film How to Buy Art.
Dessert was served in a themed box, mine being...can you guess? Pop Art, of course.
KAPOW! to my glucose levels indeed, look what was inside:
I was too full to even think about dessert (I left out a couple courses in the photos because sweets and tiny food present a lot nicer than meat), but there was no way I was leaving it behind, so this box of goodies came back to my room and I got into it when I woke up.
Want to know more about Humour in Art? Let's take the last of the tours that art historian and author Linda Bolton (how we will miss her!) designed to explore works associated with the film topic. Here's a selection from the works we saw at Tate Modern earlier that day, which illustrate how humour comes in many different forms, in Linda's words:
Niki de Saint Phalle – Shooting picture, 1961
She did what? Shoot stuff? That was her thing. Niki de St Phalle said she was angry. In her zip fronted white leather cat suit and hard attitude, she told everyone in her sexy French accent that she was angry with everyone and everything. She wanted to shoot everything and everyone. Niki made shooting paintings: she put liquid paint in a bag, sealed the bag, pinned it to the canvas and covered it in plaster. Plaster dried, she shot the plaster, punctured the bag below and the colour bled down the picture.
Thomas Hirschhorn – Candelabra with heads, 2006
Hirschhorn is known for his sculptures and installations made from everyday materials such as cardboard, plastic and paper, bound together with brown packing tape. This work was originally part of an exhibition called Concretions, a term from geology and medicine that suggests the gradual growth of a solid mass. Hirschhorn related the theme to a broader social and spiritual petrification. Here the faces of mannequins seem to be emerging from – or submerged into – larger biomorphic forms.
(I have to admit that every time I see this work I feel crampy. I don't need to explain why, do I?)
Stanley Spencer – The Centurion’s Servant, 1914
As we looked at this painting, Linda told us the humorous story (to us, but surely not him) of how Spencer fell in love with a lady called Patricia Preece, married her, yet took his ex-wife Hilda Carline on honeymoon with him. Preece began to manage Spencer’s finances and slowly duped him of his money, even though she refused to consummate their marriage. Stan really didn't play that one right. Find out more here.
David Shrigley – I’m Dead
David Shrigley's art is almost always humorous. His Leisure Centre is a funny play on words and concept, as is his I'm Dead placard-holding taxidermy dog.
Bruce Nauman – Run from fear fun from rear, 1941
Bruce Nauman makes a fun word play in his neon work. It's a bright, post-pop shout-out for irreverent fun.
Roy Lichtenstein – Mustard on White, 1963
Roy Lichtenstein makes an art joke in his Mustard on White. The great pop artist makes fun of the American abstract expressionists here. The pairing of colours sounds like the title of an abstract work and at the same time jokingly refers to a condiment on white bread.
And before we go, here's something I found kind of funny from one of Franz's magic molecular demonstrations at the Terrace Grill and Bar - when he lifted the cloche after scent-infusing the cocktails, his head seemed to disappear into a delicious-smelling iquid nitrogen cloud:
Photos © Dave Watts unless otherwise credited
A huge thank you to Le Meridien for providing what is hands down the most fun and exciting learning experience I have ever had. Sure beats university! (At least the one I went to.) If you want to see posts on the preceding films scroll down here, and to view the entire series of films you can visit the Unlock Art site.
Part of Le Méridien’s ethos is to support emerging artists. It furthers this commitment through its Unlock Art™ Programme, which offers Le Méridien guests complimentary access to forward thinking cultural institutions around the world. These partnerships allow guests to explore a local, inspiring cultural experience, simply by presenting the Unlock Art™ room key. Le Méridien’s Unlock Art™ partner in the UK is TATE Modern and TATE Britain
Tate is a family of four galleries: Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives. Tate is responsible for the National Collection of British art from 1500 and international modern and contemporary art from 1900. Tate's Collection of over 66,000 works of art embraces all media from painting, drawing, sculpture and prints, to photography, video and film, installation and performance. The Collection is displayed at Tate's four galleries and through loans to temporary national and international exhibitions and long loans.