Tate's Turbine Hall Filled With London's Dirt And Rubbish

Abraham Cruzvillegas: Empty Lot ★★★☆☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 34 months ago
Tate's Turbine Hall Filled With London's Dirt And Rubbish Abraham Cruzvillegas: Empty Lot 3
Soil from all over London is portioned into triangles, and now it's just a case of waiting and seeing what grows. Photo Tabish Khan

Recent visitors to Tate Modern's Turbine Hall will have noticed it's been sitting empty since Richard Tuttle's winged monstrosity came down. But now a new series brings a new sponsor and an installation by Abraham Cruzvillegas.

Cruzvillegas has taken rubbish that he's found and interspersed it among triangular planters of soil from different parts of London — from Buckingham Palace to Brockwell Park. Nobody has any idea what will spring forth from each sample of soil and that's part of the mystery. There's also a message: each sample is equal, and growth and development can spring forth from soil wherever it comes from, be it the Olympic Park or royal soil or a council estate. This is about hope but also the widening gap between the rich and poor of the world, an idea that won't be lost on Londoners.

There is also, we think, the chance that visitors may throw seeds into the planters and that the lamps and regular watering may result in the sprouting of unexpected plant life. It's not visitor behaviour that the Tate is encouraging but both they and the artist seem comfortable that this will happen throughout the six-month run.

The difficulty with the Turbine Hall is that to fill it successfully requires a large scale work that visitors can interact with — case in point being successful previous installations such Olafur Eliasson's artificial sun and Doris Salcedo's massive crack the length of the room. There's no doubt the scale of this work is colossal; from the Turbine Hall entrance it looms over visitors like the prow of a ship. It is, however, a little disappointing that people can't get up close and walk amongst the planters (although you can walk under them).

This work is an interesting concept and Cruzvillegas should be commended for integrating the host city into the work. Only over time will we see whether the installation blooms or wilts.

Hyundai Commission 2015: Abraham Cruzvillegas - Empty Lot is on at Tate Modern until 3 April 2016. Entrance is free. Also on at Tate Modern is the excellent World Goes Pop and over at Tate Britain is the last few weeks of the sculptures of Hepworth, the layered paintings of Auerbach and the mixed Fighting History.

For other major art exhibitions see Ai Weiwei's politicised art at The Royal Academy, Goya's portraits at National Gallery and our top picks for autumn exhibitions.

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Visitors can wander under the installation. Photo Tabish Khan
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Seen from the front it appears like an ark preserving London's earth. Photo Tabish Khan
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The installation extends either side from the central bridge, though this is as close as we can get to it. Photo Tabish Khan
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All the sources of soil are listed out underneath the installation. Photo Tabish Khan

Last Updated 13 October 2015