Nicholas Serota Advises Tate Modern Neighbors to Get Curtains

Artist Grayson Perry called it a class row.

Nicholas Serota, director of Tate
Photo: Courtesy Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

Sir Nicholas Serota, outgoing director of London’s Tate, who is known for usually remaining tight-lipped, broke with his norm on Wednesday to advise the unhappy residents whose homes neighbor Switch House, the new Tate Modern extension, saying “If you want privacy, get net curtains.”

Those complaining are irritated about the newfound display upon which they have found themselves in the wake of Tate Modern’s recent expansion. The museum’s new addition overlooks the private residences of the Neo Bankside building (which, according to The Guardian, includes some homes as close as only 20 meters from Switch House), thus giving museum-goers the ability to observe people in their luxurious homes.

Image via Google Earth and The Guardian.

Aerial view of Tate Modern and Neo Bankside. Photo Google Earth

But, despite their proximity, inhabitants of these apartments are not part of the new hang on display at the Tate Modern, and the museum itself was forced to remind visitors of this fact. Serota explained that a sign has been displayed stressing that people were, “not to gesticulate, to recognize that people who live nearby have a right to some privacy.”

The Neo Bankside apartment building, designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour, sells homes to the tune of a cool £4.5 m ($5,842,057), and their design and exclusivity may perhaps contribute to the public intrigue surrounding them. “I could swear I spotted a Francis Bacon,” a recent visitor to Tate’s Switch House said to artnet News, not referring to the hang inside the museum.

Screenshot of Instagram post. Photo Courtesy: Kristian Vistrup Madsen.

Screenshot of Instagram post. Photo courtesy Kristian Vistrup Madsen.

artnet News further reported that local politician Adele Morris described people “literally hanging over the balcony and taking photos of [the residents’] rooms and then posting them on the internet.” Many of these have appeared on social media, including Instagram.

Yet, Serota seems to harbor no sympathy for the inhabitants of these high-scale apartments, offering the not-so-subtle rebuttal: “I need to repeat the fact that clearly people purchasing those flats were in no doubt that Tate Modern was going to build its new Switch House building and the character and uses of that building were widely known. People purchased with their eyes wide open,” he concluded.

Beloved artist and UK national treasure Grayson Perry then threw his hat into the mix, speaking on Radio 4’s news program World at One, stating that this was now a class row. He pointed out that net curtains are widely considered a working class furnishing item and are effectively banned in some high priced developments. He also added that although he had some sympathy with the residents, many working in the arts were having to leave the capital due to rising house prices and the disgruntled residents should “embrace it, or move.”

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