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Steve McQueen review

Art Tate Modern , Bankside Until Monday May 11 2020
5 out of 5 stars
1 out of 5 stars
(2user reviews)
Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen '7th Nov. 2001' Video still © Steve McQueen. Image courtesy of the artist, Thomas Dane Gallery and Marian Goodman Gallery

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

This is heavy art. The deeper you go into Steve McQueen’s exhibition, the more each work seems to weigh down on your shoulders. Which won’t surprise anyone who’s seen the Oscar-winning English artist’s films. Whether dealing with sexual addiction in ‘Shame’ or the brutal history of slavery in ‘12 Years a Slave’, he likes to drop a titanic, hulking weight on you and force you to confront it.

His visual art’s no different. Each work here hits with a thud. One of the first is a slideshow of images selected by Nasa to be sent into space to represent life on earth. Sunsets, music, art, maths. No poverty, conflict, disease or pain. It’s an important opening statement, because the rest of the art here is built to totally undermine that veneer of pleasantness.

There’s a huge screen showing a helicopter’s eye view of the Statue of Liberty right after it re-opened post-9/11. You spin around it, taking in the streaked copper degradation to its serious, austere face. The liberty it once promised, the freedom and welcoming embrace, all decaying right in front of you.

McQueen’s fingers poke and prod at actress Charlotte Rampling’s eye in a video nearby, dancing between tenderness and violence. He tugs viciously at his own nipple in another closeup work. It’s all too close, too tense.

‘Western Deep’ sends you down on a claustrophobic, endless journey into the world’s deepest gold mine: it’s a grim film of grim working conditions which exist only because human greed demands it. ‘Ashes’ is a beautiful portrait of a shirtless Grenadian fisherman sat on the prow of a boat. The other side of the screen shows the building of his tomb after he was murdered. An uncomfortable depiction of senseless loss.

But, for me, the most moving work is ‘7th Nov’: a still, motionless film where McQueen’s cousin recounts the day he accidentally shot and killed his own brother. It’s a rambling, heartbreaking story that feels so intimate and raw that you feel like you’re intruding. Again, it’s all too close, too tense, too much.

There’s so much beauty in this exhibition, and so much pain and injustice too. But more than anything, there’s a whole lot of truth. McQueen’s work is a brass-knuckled punch of reality in the face of everyday complacency. He’s making you see that the world isn’t all sunsets and music and art and maths. It’s racism, violence, greed, oppression, manipulation and sadness too. You can’t have one without the other, and McQueen is brilliant at making you see that.


Venue name: Tate Modern
Venue website:
Venue phone: 020 7887 8888
Address: Bankside
Transport: Tube: Southwark/Blackfriars
Price: £13, £12 concs.

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Utterly hilarious that your reviewer lauds this piece of insignificant and puerile drivel. McQueen’s “art” completely fell flat for just about every person of my acquaintance who has been to see it. Facebook is awash with barbed comments about the exhibition being nonsense and trite, and yet your reviewer is either grandstanding with his ludicrous hyperbole or has little connection with the real world. It is the worst and most disappointing exhibition I have seen in ages.

Eddy Frankel is such a tedious excuse for a critic, whose middle aged trying to be down with the kids act just makes people cringe. Every time we get somebody different doing reviews, somebody with an iota of insight, or knowledge, or perception or half-decent writing skills, I hope they've finally got rid of him. But no, he always seems to wash back on the shore like the detritus from the bottom of the journalism barrel with his shallow and risible attempts at art criticism.

Five stars was always on the cards for this from Frankel. It's a dismal waste of money.

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