Camera obscura. Despite its conversion into the hippest museum in London, the Tate Modern's massive ugly building, unmistakably an old power station, could otherwise be one of Blake's dark Satanic mills. In that guise it's the perfect setting for three rooms lined with photographs by Diane Arbus. There would seem to be nothing new to say, or think, about Arbus's scalding vision. She roamed the ordinary New York of commuters and shoppers, and yet somehow simply to have her eye settle on strangers transformed them.
Oh, that this rain would end! I dried my socks by stepping into the Tate Britain this afternoon.The museum collection is divided into three parts – the glorious, the dull, and the querulous. The glorious, all those luminescent Turner paintings, went on tour this year, so the mobs aren’t in attendance. The management left a few strays lingering in various galleries (like the sublimely bucolicGolden Bough and a Venetian water scene where only an outlined gondola betrays that Turner wasn’t painting a celestial city), and these left-behinds glow like yellow sapphires. The dull part of the Tate consists of traditional British paintings, large rooms hung double-decker style with portraits of horse-faced lords and their pale, powdered ladies. I have to squint to read the labels, so it’s work to separate the Reynolds, Gainsboroughs, and Van Dycks from the acreage of peerage that surrounds them. If I sound captious, it’s because the third portion of the Tate Britain, devoted to modern art, exasperated me.