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Interview: Nicholas Serota

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Will Gompertz | 12:59 UK time, Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The contemplative silence in the gallery is broken by Sir Nicholas Serota's noisy entrance. He doesn't declare his arrival with a bellowed salutation; that would be vulgar. It's the click, click, click of his shoes on the bare wooden floors of Tate Modern that heralds his appearance.

His presence at Tate, where he has been in charge since 1987, is such that the disembodied sound of his shoes has the same effect on his staff as the clock-eating crocodile has on Captain Hook (I know - I worked for him for 7 years).

Interviewing him now, just a few months after receiving a generous Serota send-off, is a bit weird. It is the journalist's stock-in-trade to ask searching and personal questions: to be a dispassionate inquisitor. Giving your old boss the once-over while the ink is still wet on your leaving card feels plain impertinent.

Still, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. In this video, Serota talks about the past, present and future of Tate Modern.

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Then off he goes, the echoing timbre of his shoes leaving a reminder of his recent presence like a vapour trail.

I suspect the sound that Serota's shoes emit is produced by blakeys, those half-moon metal strips that attach to the heel of a shoe to prevent it from wearing down. They give more away about him than he himself ever would: they are quintessentially public-school, British, officer-class, authoritative, hard-wearing, cost-effective, sensible, singular, frugal, practical and in a low-key way, ever-so-slightly flamboyant.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    You obviously have serious unresolved issues with your time with Sir Nicholas Serota. This I am afraid to say speaks more about you than him.

    What I most miss about Bankside Power Station is that it was once providing electricity. I would just love to see a real turbine hall full of rather old, but working machines and giving true life to the building. I find Tate Modern a curious place - but rather sad, much like walking inside a freshly gutted giant whale.

    It could never have had the elegance of the Musée d'Orsay as the architecture was far too dull and utilitarian, but Turbine Halls should have Turbines. When I walk in I feel empty. I expect a space full of energy and mechanical strength, like the Steam Museum at Kew, but I feel this robbed out tomb is just so sad. (But also an exemplar for the decline and fall of the Nation - we can't even make our own electricity any longer.)

    You should speak to Sir Nicholas Serota about his shoes! Or get some yourself if you lack confidence and need to make such an entrance!

  • Comment number 2.

    "You obviously have serious unresolved issues with your time with Sir Nicholas Serota. This I am afraid to say speaks more about you than him."

    You obviously feel you can make statements about someone's personality from their blog post. This I am afraid to say speaks more about you than him.

  • Comment number 3.

    #2. SoxSexSax wrote:

    ""You obviously have serious unresolved issues with your time with Sir Nicholas Serota. This I am afraid to say speaks more about you than him."

    You obviously feel you can make statements about someone's personality from their blog post. This I am afraid to say speaks more about you than him."

    Do you not recognise the internal contradiction in what you yourself have written about what I have written?

    Will Gompertz chose to start his blog entry by making reference to Sir Nicholas Serota's noisy entry which I did not really appreciate - this man is an arts administrator who has the role of safeguarding a small portion of the UK's art heritage - I don't really care if he wears carpet slippers or co-respondents brogues - it is not relevant to his performance. It is like discussing the late Albert Pierrepoint's choice of necktie - it is irrelevant to the task entrusted to him.

    I interacted with the blog because I wished to express my view about Tate Modern I am actually disinterested in whether Sir Nicholas Serota went to a public school or not (It was Haberdashers Askes Boys School by the way.) I am concerned with a critique of his performance and indeed of the performance of the interviewer! It is my opinion that being in awe of shoes is a sad, uninformative and unenlightening state to be in as an interviewer verging on retifism perhaps! Perhaps you think otherwise?

  • Comment number 4.

    @john_from_hendon i think we can still produce our own electricity, we just (rather sensibly) decided not to do it in the centre of London..

 

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