To illustrate how contemporary fine art fits within a framework of Quality, the Appendix offers a brief survey of the annual Unilever Series of Art installations exhibited between 2000 and 2010 at Tate Modern in London. The eleven fine artists who accepted these prestigious commissions were all international players at the top of their game. Each was invited to submit a proposal for a work that could hold its own in the vast Turbine Hall of the redundant power station that Tate Modern has occupied since opening in 2000. Once a proposal was accepted, the fine artist was offered generous financial and logistic support to make it a reality.
The tradition in which these fine artists operated ignores the role of Quality in generating their work. The merits of the installations most often singled out for praise in the forewords to the catalogues were creativity, innovation and experimentation. Viewed within the Metaphysics of Quality (Ch. 8), these labels approximate to Dynamic Quality. What the installations generally lacked was any kind of canon – or acknowledged set of references – against which the public could judge their meaning and value.
This Appendix seeks such references, and suggests how they might help us to evaluate the exhibited works. Needless to say, visitors who brought different references to the exhibits, will have formed different judgements as to their merit.
Annual Unilever Series installations 2000–10, Tate Modern, London
Three steel towers, each some 9 metres high. On I Do and I Redo, a spiral staircase wound round a central column to a viewing platform with large oval mirrors. On I Undo, a rectangular steel skin enclosed a cylinder and staircase, with a further spiral staircase on the outside. Maman was a 10 m. high bronze image of a spider carrying a sac of marble eggs beneath her abdomen.
An elevated ‘carpet’ with optical patterns extended from the bridge to the far end of the Turbine Hall. In the cavity between this false floor and the ceiling beneath, white figures in frozen animation could be glimpsed from below. At the back of the hall two empty elevators ascended and descended at different speeds. [Image shown: Juan Muñoz, Plaza (Madrid), 1996, resin and pigment, Madrid, Museo Reina Sofia]
The entire length of the hall was filled by a vast membrane of red PVC, stretched at each end over a vertical steel ring, and pulled down at the centre by a horizontal third ring suspended over the bridge.
At one end of the hall a gigantic sun glowed through a fine mist, bathing visitors in an orange light through which they saw themselves reflected from the mirrored ceiling.
2004: Bruce Nauman, Raw Materials (b. 1941, USA)
At different locations in the otherwise empty Turbine Hall, recorded voices repeated snatches of 22 texts and soundtracks from Nauman’s earlier works.
Visitors followed a meandering path around towering piles of 14,000 translucent white polyethylene castings made from the interiors of 10 different cardboard boxes.
Five spiral slides in stainless steel and perspex allowed visitors to slide from the 5th, 3rd or 1st floor to ground level.
A 167m-long jagged crack in the concrete floor ran the length of the hall.
50 years after 2008, the Turbine Hall has become a refuge from incessant rain for swollen sculptures and people, who sleep on blue or yellow steel bunk beds arranged in neat rows.
A steel-framed container 13 metres high and 30 long raised on stilts 2 metres high. Visitors entered via a ramp into a pitch-black, felt-lined interior.
100 million hand-painted seed substitutes moulded in porcelain.