Sigmar Polke: Alibis opens at Tate Modern this week.
It’s the show that’s travelled from MoMA.
It opened there in time for Frieze NY.
It opens here for Frieze London.
Such is the art world calendar.
There’s one big difference between the two hangings.
In New York, there was absolutely no wall text.
At the entrance was a map, which gave you all the titles, and any relevant information.
And then, you were on your own.
It was such a liberating experience.
Without wall text to fit into the overall design of the show, Polke’s work was allowed to crowd the walls, and overwhelm.
At Tate Modern, the pictures are labelled.
It’s more discreet than usual, with the labelling at the side of the wall rather than with each work, but it’s still labelling.
And each room has a overall wall text.
Inevitably, the show feels more didactic.
At MoMA you walked through the show looking at the info when needs be.
Here, where information is presented, it feels like it should be read.
Of course, all this is much of a muchness to anyone who didn’t get to see the show in New York.
Which will probably be 99.9998% of those seeing it in London.
But still, it’s interesting to be given a stark example of the impact of wall texts.
And why the experience is better without them.
The work is still the work.
In accordance with the MoMA stance, I barely took notice of any of the titles.
Here’s some early work, from the 1960s, a West German response to US pop.
Love these plastic tubs.
He soon began working with Raster images.
As in, those made up from dots.
This work is called Family 1.
The incredible incredible Doughnuts/Berliner.
Sometimes in his work, he played with the swastika, as in Constructivist.
With Yellow Squares.
At MoMA, the Potato House was sat in the public atrium space before you entered the exhibition.
It gave the sense of the show spilling out of its prescribed rooms.
As if there was too much stuff to fit in.
Here it’s in a side room.
It feels slightly confined.
But again, is this reviewing the work, or reviewing the show?
Polke As Drug.
The Seventies saw things go screwy.
You know, experimental drugs, cross-dressing.
The amazing amazing Alice In Wonderland, the canvas made of kids duvet covers.
Possibly my favourite work I’ve seen this year.
I’m obsessed with it.
It’s lovely to see it again.
Into the 80s.
One of the Watchtower series.
An extraordinary work made of soot on four panes of glass.
An extraordinary feat to have it transported and installed.
As I was going round this morning, the alarms kept beeping.
Like someone was just stealing the whole show.
It was because they were still hanging one of the works.
One of my absolute favourites.
I love seeing works being installed.
Here it is, off the wall.
A few minutes later.
Britta’s Pigs, from 1990.
The amazing Season’s Hottest Trends from 2003, which again I think was in the public space at MoMA.
This photo doesn’t quite give you the sense of its scale.
Close up where those cloths join.
Does it sound like I’m down on this show?
It took a while to acclimatise to the new hang, and the labelling.
I saw the MoMA show twice, so it’s stuck hard in the mind.
But walking back through it to the beginning again, the worth of the work took over from any quibbles about the hang.
A hang which is dictated by the restrictive space of Tate Modern’s current rooms.
A situation which will hopefully be improved when the new extension opens.
As I was walking back through, I saw a man with a temporary pass round his neck.
I’m nosy, and so peered to read his name.
Suddenly the show turned human.
About the bravery, inquisitiveness and liberation of his father’s work.
Here’s Georg, being interviewed for German radio, in front of a picture of his father as a young man.
Go go go go see.