Tate Britain unveils its chronologically organised permanent collection

Tate Britain has been very busy as of late. The gallery has slowly but surely delivered a radical and impressive overhaul of the way it displays its impressive collection of art. It has opted to arrange works in a chronological order, taking visitors on a sweeping journey through the world of British art from the 1500s to the present day.
The general reaction to the re-hang has been overwhelmingly positive, with the Telegraph’s art critic Richard Dorment saying it is “gloriously, satisfyingly reactionary”, while his counterpart at the Guardian, Jonathan Jones, describes this seemingly orthodox approach as innovative:
“The famous and the forgotten hang side by side in chronological order,” he wrote. “This display glories in the advantages a straight chronological arrangement has over curatorial ‘interventions’. Arranging art in order of when it was made does not impose anything on the visitor. It gives everyone the freedom to see connections, make comparisons, and lose themselves.”
However, not all are in favour of this neo-novel yet seemingly regressive display. It definitely goes against the norm of contemporary thinking, which is thematic arrangements to curation, for both permanent and temporary exhibitions.
The chief art critic for The Times, Rachel Campbell-Johnston, said that Tate’s decision to reduce explanatory notes is dangerous for visitors who lack knowledge about art, its movements and its artists.
While this is a fair point, there is the argument that these tidbits of information were, aside from the name of the artist and the date it was executed, made redundant by their use of convoluted language.
In any case, consensus among the art world’s writers and thinkers is that this is an outstanding success (Mr Dorment, by the way, applauds the minimal descriptions – “the garrulous picture labels at Tate Britain [used to] made the heart sink”).
This new concept simply makes sense; it conveys sentiment appropriately and sheds new light. In some ways, there is want for holding back on details. It should be up to the visitor to engage with art as they see fit.
“The new chronological approach offers a fresh perspective highlighting surprising juxtapositions of art created within a few years of each other but rarely associated,” the gallery explained.
“Often separated when hung by movement or genre, the chronological presentation allows a more neutral view of the range of art being produced at any one historical moment to emerge.”
In addition to this new arrangement of its permanent collection, Tate Britain has also invested two permanent galleries dedicated to William Blake and Henry Moore, which along with J.M.W Turner, have a “special relationship” with the gallery.
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