Tate Modern fills tanks with live performance

  • @MrNickClark

The Tate is looking to take performance and live art into the mainstream with the world’s first ever dedicated gallery space launching later this year.

The Tanks at Tate Modern will exhibit live art, performance, installation and film pieces and will open in July initially until the end of October as part of the London 2012 Festival.

Sir Nicholas Serota said: “It is about elevating something that for years has been in the basement or on the fringes and taking it to the centre,” before adding: “It’s about giving a very visible platform to this work and treating it exactly the same as painting and sculpture and other visual arts.”

Among the initial works on display will be a commission from an acclaimed South Korean artist, a dance piece by choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and new piece on sexuality and voyeurism by Eddie Peake, the young British artist whose work includes a choreographed naked football match

The massive industrial chambers were originally used to hold the oil that fuelled the power station that would later become the Tate Modern before it was decommissioned in 1981. 

The gallery has used the Turbine Hall to stage performance art, and bosses at the Tate believed the appetite for live performance justified its own space. Tate Modern director Chris Dercon called it a “new type of public space for art which is about social play” adding: “There is an incredible appetite to be part of the art.” The east and the south tank will be given over to artwork while the west tank will be used for “back of house” support to the other two spaces.

Sir Nicholas said: “The Tanks will give us the opportunity to respond to the changing practice of artists, many more of whom are now engaged in instillation and performative forms of art than 10 or 15 years ago.” He added that it had become apparent that the gallery’s audiences now “seek different forms of participation and engagement”.

The first piece in the East Tank will be a new commission by Korean artist Sung Hwan Kim, whose work uses video, music, sculpture, light and drawing led the Tate to dub him “one of the key artists of his generation”. The South Tank will have a rolling series of projects.

Stuart Comer, film curator at Tate Modern, said: “There has always been a perception that this is niche. It has never been part of the arts curriculum, yet it is important work and generates a huge amount of interest. We are happy to encourage that.”

The initial launch is part of the London 2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad that runs alongside the Olympic Games. Over 40 artists will take part.

The use of the tanks is “phase one” of the building project at Tate Modern. They will sit beneath the new building that has been designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron and is scheduled for completion in 2016. That new space will increase the gallery’s size by 60 per cent.

The organisation has raised about 75 per cent of the £215m needed for the project. Of that £50m came from the Government and £7m from the Greater London Authority, while the rest of it has come from private donors.