Tate Modern Visit – London

So, I had a couple of hours to kill on Monday morning in London.  What a treat to be able to spend it visiting the Tate Modern on Bankside.  I haven’t been there since I moved to the South West!  This time I went with my framing head on.

When I was at school and my Brother and Sister were living in London, the Tate was just, well, The Tate.  As far as I can remember it was one gallery, quite different from the way it’s split up now.   My Sister used to take me to such galleries, on my visits to her in the 80’s.  I still have a couple of postcards I had brought from the shop back then.

To my delight one in particular was on display and it brought floods of memories back.  I remember the times I had been there with her and the time a man told me to cheer up when I was sitting looking deep into a picture (I have no idea what I was looking at, I was probably just knackered!)

The painting by the way is by Fernand Léger and is called “Still Life with a Beer Mug” (typical that I like something with Beer in it!).  Actually, I have to confess that I thought it was by Picasso (philistine  that I am!)

Anyway, I really do digress as usual!  I didn’t get see the whole place of course, not in a couple of hours.


I loved walking around in geek mode though!  You don’t want to go to an art gallery with me, I tell you, I’m becoming a real bore!  I’m so in love with all things framing, it’s becoming an obsession!

It’s fascinating, as obviously some of the framing is done in-house by a team at the Tate and some have been brought in with the original frames kept.  I was able to recognise the type of museum grade glass used and it was a real eye opener to see how it works in such a vast space.  I took pride in thinking; we were using this glass on a picture the other day.

How on earth do they manage to fit the glass when it’s the size, literally, of a small house?!  The logistics are mind boggling to me.

There were some bits inside the frame.  When you run a business you wouldn’t be able to get away with this but at that size, there’s no way you could keep taking it apart, to get bits of dust out!

On very large pieces, there is a case for just doing your best (as far as humanly possible), but at times, you do have to realise, it is what it is I guess.  These are people at the very top of their game, sometimes the lessons you learn are not what you expect them to be!

Since I know we have a customer with a Lichtenstein print coming in soon, I also wanted to check out what frames they had on those huge canvases.  I was sorely disappointed; they were really standard light canvas tray frames, which I didn’t think went well at all!  I guess these were just brought in as they were though!

All in all, if you are a framer, an art or photography student or just interested in frames, there is such a fabulous array of eras and styles to look at, it’s fabulous!

It’s nice to see that some of the more recently framed work is done in the same way that we might do it.  There were some photographic works, which had been framed in a flat Oak and instead of a mount they had used an Oak Slip to match (to keep the glass away from the picture – basic conservation).  It was also great to see, that in the same frame, the lengths had differing grain and colourations.

This is the very thing that I and other wood lovers want to see.  Unfortunately, it’s very hard to point out to some customers that the plain woods are natural.  Sometimes, you will get a batch in that varies from inch to inch!  Someone actually said once “this is so unnatural; I can’t see how anyone would be happy with this”!

I suppose we are so used to seeing perfect looking oak in high street shops these days.  A lot of the them are actually either compressed cardboard with a veneer or plastic oak effect.  It’s like the X Factor generation saying that Simon LeBon can’t sing, it’s just not comparable!

In the Tate Modern shop, which is independent from the gallery, they had a poster section.  In that section you could choose to have a poster framed and delivered.  You had four choices, Black, White, Gold and Brown (from memory).

The cost was around the same-ish as a basic bespoke frame.  I thought, why the hell pay to have it done in unimaginative frames, when you could probably get something much better and more suited to your home and the print for just a little bit more?  Money for old rope that, I bet the profit is amazing! I mean the bigger ones were in the region of £90!  Not cheap!

So, what did I learn then?  Hmmm, there is good and bad in …… oh, no that’s a Paul McCartney, Steve Wonder collaboration!

I learnt that we know our stuff, you can’ t be perfect, just because you’ve got some of the best artwork in the world (arguably) doesn’t mean you’ve got a clue about framing and sometimes, just sometimes, I wouldn’t do it the same way as the “experts” (Shhhhh).


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