A-Z Challenge ‘M’
Claus Oldenburg's and Coose van Bruggen's Bottle of Notes outside mima
‘M’ is for Middlesbrough, but it’s also for ‘mima’ the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. I wrote this piece on mima in February 2007 just as its first exhibition opened.
mima is a Draw
Whether you like and understand modern art or not, a visit to mima is be recommended.
‘mima,’ a mnemonic for the £14.2 million new Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, is situated between the Carnegie Library and Oldenburg and van Bruggen’s ‘Bottle of Notes.’ The building and surrounding square were designed by Erick van Egeraat Associated Architects.
From the front of the building you see a glass wall with an overhanging canopy supported as part of the flat roof by grey steel pillars behind the glass. To the right a white limestone wall is set back to permit access to the main public entrance. On your approach your eyes are drawn to what, on a rainy day, looks like a wall of water falling from the roof parallel to the glass frontage. Sunken lights lead you to the base of not a waterfall but steel cables tethered to the ground in stainless metal sockets.
The first exhibition is entitled ‘Draw. Conversations around the legacy of drawing’ and runs until nearly the end of April. It features drawings by significant 20th century artists in relationship to works of contemporary artists.
In the shared gallery on the second floor you may recognise some of Picasso’s and Matisse’s drawings of nudes and, while the contemporary artists Chantal Joffe and Chris Ofili may be less well known, Joffe’s collages and Ofili’s pencil on paper drawings stand out too. Ofili’s use of a beaded look appears as though he is constructing a work from necklaces, with some beads creating a stack of three dimensional images in a mirror. The head of his ‘Belmont Guru’ will leave a long lasting impression with many who see it for the first time.
In the four ground floor interconnecting galleries, paired artists are Jackson Pollock and D J Simpson, Francis Bacon and Damien Hirst, Marcel Duchamp with Ceal Floyer and Joseph Bueys with David Musgrave.
An immediate impact is made by Simpson’s ‘Extension 3’, a six- by five-metre lucida mirror on birch plywood, where the gouged patterns stand out and the mirror reflecting the gallery’s parquet floor gives it further depth. If you do not turn round you will not see Pollock’s dwarfed abstract works in oil, pen and ink and watercolour, and ink and gouache on paper until you leave the galleries.
It is difficult to be inspired by Bacon’s figures while Hirst’s pen on paper skull and words remind you of what you are and will become.
What else? Well, older school teachers and trainers may well connect with Bueys’s Four Blackboards in the days before whiteboards when chalk and talk prevailed.
Project spaces hold photographs of local views not normally seen, accompanied by a ‘Geographics’ newspaper, and work which shows how local school children have been encouraged to draw and paint.
Damien Hirst has said, “All children draw; it’s stupid that most of them stop.” Adults and children please stop and enjoy mima and the ‘Draw’ exhibition. It’s free!
View from terrace
Despite the poor economic times mima – Middlesbrough’s flagship Institute of Modern Art – has recently received a major funding boost from Arts Council England. The gallery has attracted more than 500,000 visitors since it opened.
Its annual funding will almost treble over the next three years. The Arts Council is currently making significant cuts to arts organisations some of which are losing 100% of their funding. The support for mima demonstrates a commitment to the gallery and acknowledges its achievements in its first four years.
Find out more at www.visit.mima.com