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September 13, 2012

The Tate Tanks Delivers Performance Art

By Adam H. Graham | Art

Tate Tanks
Courtesy of Tate Photography

The term “performance art” has a checkered past, causing many—even among the most tolerant of contemporary art audiences—to wince. But anyone who witnessed the edgy greatness of Marina Abramoviç’s MoMA show in New York or the thrilling high energy of Tino Sehgal—whose piece, This Variation, was arguably the highlight of the dOCUMENTA (13) art fair—knows that performance art is finally having its moment.

Fittingly, the genre has been given a starkly gorgeous new permanent home in London at the Tate Tanks, which opened in July during the Olympic tumult. The first space ever completely devoted to performance and live art is a shadowy warren of vaulted concrete galleries and quasi-industrial chambers in the gorgeously redesigned basement (formerly water tanks) of the Tate Modern. Coincidentally, it’s just downstairs from Sehgal’s ongoing piece, These Associations, in the main Turbine Hall.

The Tanks three exhibition spaces were redesigned by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron and are marked by columns of concrete that beam down like massive shafts of light, a nod to the building’s history as the Bankside Power Station. They also mark the first phase of the museum’s ongoing expansion, which will eventually include a new building (also designed by Herzog & de Meuron) that promises to double the size of the Tate’s already vast footprint.

Meanwhile, the Tanks is hosting Art in Action, a jam-packed 15-week festival that celebrates performance, film and site-specific installations through October 28. Highlights include works by late experimental filmmaker Jeff Keen (September 18 to 23); choreographer Boris Charmatz presenting Flip Book, an ode to Merce Cunningham (September 28 and 29); and an ongoing exhibition by interdisciplinary Korean artist Sung Hwan Kim (through October 28). Bankside; 44-20/7887-8888; tate.org.uk.