The Fate of the Arts   /   Summer 2004   /    Reviews

Colin Painter’s At Home with Art and Contemporary Art and the Home

A few months before the Tate Modern Museum opened in London in the converted Bankside Power Station—a monumental building adjacent to St. Paul’s Cathedral that promised to make contem- porary art accessible to the public on an unprecedented scale—Colin Painter curated an exhibit called “At Home with Art.” It was launched at the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain) from November 1999 through February 2000, toured Britain for two years, and became the subject of a BBC2 documentary. With its modest media buzz and its comforting title, offering to help the estranged feel more familiar with the arts, the exhibition contributed to a surge of public enthusiasm for contemporary art in England. More people were going to the museum than to soccer matches, it was reported. The Turner Prize was making some contemporary visual artists into celebrities. The New Labor party was heralding the power of the arts to create a sense of community and civic pride among ordinary British citizens. However, Painter’s exhibition was only part of a larger “At Home with Art” project, a quietly provocative effort to unsettle the notion that the public museum is the ultimate place for experiencing contemporary art.

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