Autumn 2003

Photography invades Tate Modern [EXTRACT]

Cruel and Tender: The Real in the Twentieth-Century Photograph

Tate Modern, London
5 June–7 Sept 2003

‘Cruel and Tender’ marks the first time that this celebrated art gallery has mounted an exhibition wholly devoted to photography. Nicolas Serota, director of the Tate, explains the change of policy: ‘Such a move acknowledges that photography is a key component of contemporary visual culture and should now feature regularly in the programme of a museum dedicated to the art of the twentieth century and present.’

While this change of policy must be welcomed, it does beg the question why it has taken the Tate so long to adopt photography, when most of us have known of its importance for quite some time. But better late than never, and they have certainly made quite an impression with this first foray, with 24 rooms each devoted to the work of one photographer with a total of 650 prints on show in this mammoth exhibition.

Unlike the photographic art of Rodchenko, Moholy-Nagy or Man Ray which long ago found its way into art galleries, this is a show of international documentary work, albeit dominated by American and German artists. Here we see transformation – the mundane into the symbolic, the ordinary into the emblematic. This is daily life seen through questioning eyes . . .

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