Art lovers enchanted by tank girl's sleeping beauty entrances art lovers

Marianne Macdonald gauges reaction to an artistic lie-in by Tilda Swinton by the actress Tilda Swinton at a London gallery

The small boy was finding it hard to grasp what was going on. "Is she asleep, mummy?" he demanded. He peered up against the glass. "Is she Snow White? Is there a spell on her?"

"No, darling," whispered his mother. "It's an art work. She's lying there so we can look at her." The boy stuck his hands into his shorts and stared again at the unmoving form. "No," he said finally. "I don't think so. I think she's in a forest and she's waiting for a prince."

His confusion was not untypical of the 200 or so people who came into the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park yesterday to watch Tilda Swinton, star of Orlando and Derek Jarman's Wittgenstein, sleeping in a glass tank in full view of the public. She was dressed simply for the occasion, just a cotton shirt, blue corduroys and a pair of canvas deck shoes. In front of her on the white mattress lay a pair of glasses, neatly folded, and behind her on the pillow streamed her red, unwashed hair.

She will lie in the tank from 10am until 6pm every day until Sunday, and yesterday, on day one, she showed no sign of nerves. In fact, she shows no signs at all. Her most notable movement came at 12.20pm, when she gave a deep sigh, lifted her left foot and turned dreamily on her back. Most of the time, she lay on her left side, her arms wrapped around herself, her chin buried in the pillow and her eyes firmly closed. There were no embarrassing side-effects of sleep, such as dribbling or snoring.

"Do you think she can hear us?" a man with a goatee beard asked his friend. "I don't know, knock on the glass," his friend replied. They mooched over to the two security guards. "Does she move?" one asked. "Only occasionally," said the guard. "From one side to the other."Throughout the morning, the gallery-goers came and went in a reverential hush so as not to wake the actress. One man with a ponytail broke the silence by snorting loudly and walking out. He turned out to be a builder from Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides. "Call me a cynic, but I don't see the point," he said.

But mostly the reception verged on rapturous. "It made my heart beat faster, I thought it was absolutely incredible," said Wolfgang, 31, a musician.

There was a sudden murmur. Tilda Swinton was moving. She stretched out her arms, turned her head, and sighed softly. Around her, the crowd stretched their necks and whispered eagerly to each other.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Duty Manager is required to join one of the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Leader

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Team Leader is required to join one of the l...

Recruitment Genius: Chef

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Chef is required to join one of the largest ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is required to jo...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor