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Tate Modern's 'The Tanks' to showcase 'non-marketable' live art

The world's first permanent galleries dedicated to performance art were unveiled today at Tate Modern

A backlash against the art market and economic austerity has boosted interest in performance art according to senior figures at Tate Modern which today unveiled the world's first permanent galleries dedicated to live art.

Sir Nicholas Serota said the distinguishing characteristic of many of the performance, installation and film works being exhibited is they have “not been marketable”.

“In a moment of relative austerity, people are rethinking values and looking again at the work that doesn’t play to the market,” he said. “Artists want to express themselves in forms that can’t be consumed by the market and also be involved very directly with the audience.”

The Tanks will open on Wednesday with a new installation by Korean artist Sung Hwan Kim and performances of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich. Other works include the Tate’s new acquisitions of Suzanne Lacy’s The Crystal Quilt and Lis Rhodes’ Light Music.

The space is a series of underground tanks which used to hold the oil that powered the old power station before it was decommissioned and later transformed into Tate Modern.

It marks the first phase of the £215m project to overhaul the site and build a new wing. The Government has invested £50m in the project, with a further £7m from the Greater London Authority.

Donations have also come from the foundations of the Blavatnik Family, Deborah Loeb Brice and that set up by Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation.

In the first stage, the Tanks will show performances until October 28, before it closes, only to open irregularly as building work is carried out above.  The Art in Action festival will include 40 artists from around the world.

Sir Nicholas said: “There is a dual role of historicising performance art and showing contemporary work. If we do our job well, we will study, we will research, we will publish,” adding : “For the new generation, you can present the work in an authentic a way as possible and that will spark their engagement.”

There was a scheme early on in the creation of Tate Modern, and had hoped to use The Tanks in 2000.

Chris Dercon, director of Tate Modern, said: “We want to give not only artists a voice but the audience a voice.”

He said that while he did not want to talk about politics and banks “we are completely surrounded by abstract systems and struggle to understand how they work. They do things for us but in reality they do things to us and do things at us.”

He continued: “I think we want to have an experience of the art of “with”… to be with something. That kind of new form of interconnectivity is what performance is providing. We are a little bit fed up with people and organisations doing things at us. Maybe that’s why we are looking for something.”