June 1, 2010 by cynthia
The Tates are one of ten museum complexes I’ve vowed to spend at least a week apiece in, before I die. Just in case that falls through* though, the Tate puts its lectures and walking tours on iTunes so I can enjoy it in absentia.
Not quite the same, I know, but the Tate’s foray into virtual education is actually quite nice. Instead of a staid and formal look at whatever strikes the programmer’s fancy (like the Louvre’s iPhone app), the Tate’s iTunes offerings are wildly varied and mostly fascinating. Some are lectures, some amount to a slow scan of a particularly interesting room, with a little commentary.
There are educators’ packs, PDF mini-histories with in-depth instructional details on some of Tate Britain and Tate Modern’s more illustrious artists. There are videos and audios (vcasts and podcasts). Some of them are shot in other places besides one of the Tates (Jim Dine’s very interesting vignette is mostly shot in New York, for example). They range in length from about two minutes to a couple of hours. Some are great quality, a few are awful, and they are absolutely all over the map, which is one of the reasons I favor this collection.BTW, iTunes has become one of my first stops for information on art movements, museums and dead artists. There’s really some remarkable material there, and quite a bit of it is free. Try searching for the first arty thing that pops into your head, and you might be surprised at what comes up. The Tate is by no means the only museum taking advantage of iTunes to reach an audience. (Corning also has an excellent series for people interested in glass, for example)
This week, the Tate is featuring a bunch of material on the late Louise Bourgeois, the brilliant sculptor and Sorbonne-trained mathematician I used to call the Spider Lady. Most people think of her as an old lady artist who didn’t really pop until her 70s…but the Tate lectures give some insight into her early life. There’s a Simon Schama lecture on Rothko’s Seagram debacle–if you’ve seen his BBC series you’ve already heard the gist–but it’s presented in a bit more depth, and with less polish, than the documentary.
Anyway, if you have an iTunes account (and they’re free, so there’s no excuse), the Tate series lies within the iTunes University sections. My favorites, the curators’ podcast series, is available by subscription. I wish to blazes they’d release these as vcasts.
If you’re looking specifically for the Tate Modern or Tate Britain versions of iPhone apps, you won’t find any. What you WILL find are interactive apps that lead you on scavenger hunts through the Tate, explain specific collections, and so on. I’d still love to see a great-museum-on-iPhone-catalog application for the Tates, but these are fun. Now if I can only get back to London to try them out. In the meantime, I have my iTunes lectures to keep me warm.
*For some strange reason, although I’ve scheduled trips to the UK many, many times since childhood, everything from a professor’s heart attack to legal proceedings always cancel my plans. The one time I did actually reach London with a free day for museum-going, I wound up stuck on a double-decker bus in front of Harrod’s for four hours while the police tried to make sense of Christmas season traffic jams. My traveling companion, a cranky diabetic lady who managed to leave her coat, hat, gloves, umbrella (in stormy 38-degree weather), insulin and any trace of sugar or carbohydrate back at the hotel, dipped into near-coma as we neared the end of the fourth hour. By the time I got her back to her room and stabilized (and retrieved my coat, hat and gloves), my chance to visit the Tate was gone. And I was in a very bad mood.