From T. Rex To Tate & Back Again – Tanks Opening Party!

Despite BP sponsorship, the Tate still do their PR very well. Tate boss Nicholas Serota could have been a politician as he clearly has all the requisite skills – and in many ways he has had to act like a politician as he’s massively expanded the Tate and built it into the world’s leading art brand. The new Tank galleries at Tate Modern were launched with press coverage of Serota praising non-doms (UK-based high earners who are not domiciled in the UK for tax purposes) for their contributions to London generally and Tate’s new extension in particular (see for example page 11 of The Evening Standard 16/07/12). This also served to underscore – – without anything being explicitly said – that the Tanks extension wasn’t sponsored by BP. It is a good example of the more public side of Serota’s Tate campaigning – but he and his organisation also work very hard to get London based artists onside with Tate.

You need to be visible in the London art world but you certainly don’t need to be a big name as an artist to get invited to Tate events – and you’re not only invited, you get emails telling you in effect that you’re valued and Tate really wants to see you at its openings. Since considerable effort is put into getting artists to Tate private views, their parties are way better than many of those I’ve been to at other big name modern art museums around the world (some of whom seem to specialise in pulling in crowds made up almost exclusively of really boring business sponsors).

At last night’s Tanks opening party there was a lot of free booze and a huge crowd. You couldn’t see everyone who was there but I did run into the likes of artists Elizabeth Price, Simon Bedwell and Ian White; curators such as Roger Malpert of the Hayward, Will Fowler who handles artist film for the BFI, Nicole Yip from Firstsite, and Teresa Gleadow; other people I spoke to included Pauline de Souza and Gavin Everall. However the party wasn’t all chat, there were also screenings, performances and DJs. The Tanks is an all concrete environment and looks really impressive architecturally – but as a dedicated live art space it also has some obvious limitations. The concrete floors looked like they were playing havoc with dancers’ joints and the acoustics were somewhat murky since the sound was just bouncing off everything in what felt like an echo chamber. This will no doubt either be sorted out in due course, or may not need to be depending on what type of live art the spaces are mostly used for; but if there is to be much dance a sprung wood floor would seem to be in order.

Perhaps more surprising for an organisation so good at branding was the signage. Tate on Tate signs is never ‘The Tate’ but simply ‘Tate’. The projected Tanks sign read ‘The Tanks’ with a ‘the’ in front of ‘Tanks’. Perhaps Tanks on its own doesn’t look so great – but Tate could have followed Marc Bolan’s lead in using the spelling “Tanx” (the title of Bolan’s 1973 T. Rex album). I’m sure the vast majority of the crowds flocking daily to Tate Modern won’t notice this small branding slippage – but you can also bet your bottom dollar it won’t escape the notice of those who make a close study of corporate image. That said, what probably matters more is that Tate is still very adept at throwing parties. I went intending to look at the architecture and to spend less than an hour at The Tanks launch – but it took me nearly three hours to drag myself away from my friends and the free bar….

And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!

About mistertrippy

Stewart Home was born in south London in 1962. His mother Julia Callan-Thompson was a showgirl and club hostess. He has never held down a regular job for more than a few months at a time. On those rare occasions when he's been forced to work, Home has taken employment as a factory labourer, agricultural labourer, shop assistant, office clerk and art class model. Deciding he didn't like working in factories as a teenager, Home pursued cultural and political interests, writing many books and participating in even more gallery exhibitions.
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25 thoughts on “From T. Rex To Tate & Back Again – Tanks Opening Party!

  1. Gerrie van Noord says:

    clearly missed ya there.

  2. mistertrippy says:

    Yeah so many people – Ian White said he’d just flown in from Berlin and there seemed to be more people at The Tanks launch than in the whole of Berlin – exclusive it wasn’t!

  3. Lucy Johnson says:

    The opening of an envelope!

  4. Even more fun than the opening of bowels!

  5. Lucy Johnson says:

    It is amazing how exciting stationery can be. Especially Letter press but I like to avoid Smythsons as Sam Cam is involved.

    I was gonna put up a link about bleeding’ Sam Cam but then I thought actually that is offensive. I will not be thanked. Particularly when there was a great big picture of her mug…

  6. Steve says:

    Talulah Gosh were great but Elizabeth Price will NEVER top The Carousel!

  7. mistertrippy says:

    If it isn’t Liz I hope it is Paul Noble…. for me they are easily the best of the four this time around…. I haven’t seen Paul Noble in years but liked him well enough when i used to run into him (usually in tamden with Matthew Higgs)…. Liz I do see reasonably often and she’s great so I’d be really pleased if she wins… But no point holding our breath…. She was saying only last night, as she did the last time I saw her, that the whole experience is pretty strange….

    @ Lucy Johnson – And let’s not get on to her bad taste in men….

  8. Roman Martinez says:

    I hope G G Allin wins the Turnip Prize although it is unlikely coz he’s not up for it, he wasn’t an artist and he’s dead…..

  9. Lucy Johnson says:

    “And let’s not get on to her bad taste in men….”


  10. Brian Pseud says:

    And Nick Serota doesn’t look like the type to retire!

  11. Peter Meadows says:

    The shorter bleaker songs on Tanx as opposed to the earlier T. Rex albums were a definite precursor to punk.

  12. The Man in the Iron Mask says:

    Midgets who die in Barnes in elfin Minis do not record songs which are ‘a definite precursor to punk’. Where does Meadows find his choice cow-pats – in Tolkien? Bolan’s only punk credentials are that I saw him once in 1964 around Piccadilly impersonating a rent-boy.

  13. The Man in the Iron Mask says:

    Oops, forgot to ask: Peter, are you related to mawkish Shane? And do you think Duran Duran were definite precursors of gangsta rap?

  14. mistertrippy says:

    Bolan was always ready to do whatever was necessary for success… he was best as a glam pop star… as a hippie he was as fake as a nine bob note and his attempts to style himself the godfather of punk for his late-seventies comeback (cut short by his death) were no more credible than his songs about elves and unicorns. I do seem to remember he booked The Damned as his support on what probably turned out to be his last UK tour…. Maybe he felt like a punk coz in the mid-seventies the music press dubbed him The Porky Pixie at a time when he’d put on weight and had a coke problem…

  15. Richard Smith says:

    No one’s talking about signage and branding in this thread…

  16. mistertrippy says:

    It’s a sign of the times that corporate signage and branding are a minoirty interest… but no surprise then that it hasn’t led to much comment in this thread!

  17. J. Cauty says:

    I reckon The Tanks are actually a secret research facility for sonic weapons and anyone who visits them a victim of this research. They’re far more sinister than an inadvertant echo chamber.

  18. John Sell Cotman says:

    The Tate is the world’s leading art brand? You could have fooled me, I thought it was Winsor & Newton!

  19. Martin Smith says:

    A lot of those non-doms are American bankers. And while Bob Diamond may have paid UK tax he’s in most other ways typical of those American bankers who are non-doms working in London. They’ve really done a lot for London haven’t they? Like totally destroyed its reputation! A nuclear bomb couldn’t have done more damage than a lot of these non-doms. We must be masochists for putting up with them! They may put money into Tate but on balance they are clearly really bad for London.

  20. The Man in the Iron Mask says:

    Don’t forget the doms. They are all in it together engaged in an enterprise which knows no national or, give or take a few Cadbury Quakers, no moral boundaries: capitalism… As for the Tate it was founded on sugar money from slavery so today’s corporate BP branding/sponsorship is of a piece with the ancient filth of the institution. Money is always traceable back to muck – to crimes of violent depredation and expropriation. Or as Walter Benjamin put it: Every document of culture is a document of barbarism… I want to stage a piece at the Tanks. I will have dirty hands if I do. i hope that as a possible art whore collaborator I will at the very least lay bare the iniquitous rules of the Game – in order that the rules be changed. Otherwise it’s all bourgeois irony, the choral commentary of eunuchs, narcissists and curators.

  21. mistertrippy says:

    Well these spaces were the oil tanks – black gold and BP!

  22. The Man in the Iron Mask says:

    Spot on, Mr Trippy: incarnation, of course. And the logo was made flesh – realised in stone.

  23. Lucy Johnson says:

    It sounded fun. Jealous!

  24. mistertrippy says:

    It was fun seeing all my friends!

  25. Lucy Johnson says: