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The Tate’s Tanks: Three Steps Forward, Two Back

I was all set to compliment the Tate for creating a new space on YouTube called The Performance Room. It is meant to show performances designed specifically for online viewing, all commissioned, and “the first artistic programme created purely for live web broadcast.” (I’m not sure about that, but that is what the Tate claims.)

Joan Joanas (below) will be starting things off on Feb. 28:

Referencing previous works such as Vertical Roll 1972, in which she performed directly to the camera in her studio, and drawing on mythology, Jonas will create a live tableau using sculptural props, costumes, masks, music, her voice and her students.

joan_jonas_mirror_performanceThat Tate channel has nearly 13,000 subscribers and has had more than 3.2 million viewers for its other videos, which include the Tate’s performances in The Tanks. On Feb. 3, that meant a live, unscripted performance conceived by artist Suzanne Lacy, Silver Action. 

UK-based women who took part in significant activist movements and protests from the 1950s to 80s will share their personal stories in a series of workshops, culminating in a day-long public performance on 3 February. Visitors to The Tanks will hear diverse groups of women engaged in discussion about their experiences and the impact and results of their actions as they walk among them. Live documentation – film, social media and text – will also be projected in real time onto the walls of The Tanks.

You can read more about that here. I saw a video of a previous work by her in the Tanks last fall, and I quite liked it.

But while I was on the subject of the Tanks, I learned that the Tate did it again with regard to an overbearing corporate sponsorship — not just with BP, as I mentioned here. A recent missive from the Tate talks about the BMW Tate Live program, a four-year partnership between BMW and Tate now in its second year that “focuses on live performance and interdisciplinary art both in the gallery and online.” No amount for the gift was specified, and a quick Google search didn’t turn up anything either. Here’s the BMW version of the partnership.

Of course, BMW also forged a deal with the Guggenheim Museum in 2010, putting its name first and foremost on the BMW Guggenheim Lab. That’s a mobile structure, intended as a place to exchange talk (aka ideas), though — and somehow seems less offensive than the Tate deal.

Still, it makes one wonder — are we next going to have the BMW (Fill in an artist’s name)? A piece of conceptual art, sure, and also a very bad idea.

Why is the Tate allowing this, the thin end of the wedge, to use a British phrase? Don’t they have better negotiators in their development department? It’s hard to roll any of these abuses back. They should remember another Britishism, from their own history with the Vikings: Once you pay the Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Tate



  1. What is even more unsettling is seeing The name, David H. Koch on the former NYCity Opera building in Lincoln Center, and soon the Koch name will be someplace on the Metropolitan Art Museum. I’ll never get used to corporations buying up my city.

    • Well, thanks for your comment, but I have to disagree — largely because of the proportions ($100 mn. at the Koch theater vs. a couple of million pounds for BMW) and because naming a building or a wing or galleries has been going on a long time. But it’s the placement of BMW ahead of the program, for what is probably a pittance to BMW, that bothers me. If it were “Tate Live, Sponsored by BMW” I would be less concerned.

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