Ah, how a middle class English mother’s heart swells with pride when her 10-year-old son, out of all the available attractions in London, chooses the Tate Modern.
Felix has always loved this extraordinary conversion from a power station to an art gallery. It is ostentatiously huge, and – with lines to marvel at – it dwarves the ants who come to see it every day, swarming in though a slit at its foot.
And, cynic that I am, I thought it was because of all the buttons there were to press. There is always, on something mindblowingly high like floor five, a children’s interactive display. Felix stands at the balcony, overlooking ants far down below, and presses buttons and screens to his heart’s delight.
We filed mechanically in with the swell of art-lovers. We went to the information desk. Excuse me, I asked, but which floor had the most buttons to press?
The man looked at me just exactly as if I were an ant, and he said: floors three and four. I don’t know if he knew what he was talking about because we chose floor five anyway.
And when we arrived, wheezing and panting- Felix the liftphobic insisting he and I took the stairs – there they were. Touchscreens asking what we thought of the museum. Heaven.
But there was a queue, even on a Thursday. And when we did get to them the whole system had frozen. We confused the system a bit more by trying to repair it, but to no avail.
So Felix and I thought: there is nothing for it. We will just have to look at Art.
So off we went. Over the years, I have learnt there is only one way to appreciate art when you have a small boy in tow, and that is fast. He scoots from image to image like a gnat; yet every now and then, something will cause him to hover.
And none of us know why. Some exhibit or other will ring a bell, will fit with a pattern which lurks like a crocodile in the unconscious, waiting for synchronicity. This art works like Monty Python; it accesses constructs deep within us that we never even knew were there.
So we dash. And I grab my camera and snap the stuff which rings bells. A 3D Picasso sculpture (did he do those?), Candy-sweet Kandinski good enough to eat; Lynda Benglis’s Meteor which looks like someone has just poured lead in a corner of the old power station; firewood, in the form of Giuseppe Penone’s Tree of 12 Metres.
Felix liked the lights
“I like it,” said Felix ruminatively, “but I have no idea why.”
And there’s the rub. We walked through these galleries filled with odd, off-the-wall stuff, and each thing made us think in a new directions. Every place Felix hovered, we considered stuff we had never considered before in our lives, and dug deep to find where it fit in our world.
Horizons and planes broadened before our very eyes. The world widened.
And all from a dash-and-grab art raid.