landy · tate modern

Museum Masters: Today We Went to the Tate Modern

Today we jetted off to Jolly Old England for a little visit to the Tate Modern! We learned all about this amazing museum (the most visited modern art museum in the world!), its former life as a power station, and we took a brief tour through London – eyeing the most famous landmarks of that lovely city. (I was so impressed by just how many fun facts about London the children knew. We talked all about “beautiful” Kate Middleton and her “handsome prince”, not to mention “Big Ben” who, according to one student, is named after Benjamin Franklin who used that clock to tell the time.) We listened to God Save the Queen(no, not Sid Vicious, although that would have been kinda rad) and I even snuck some Pogues in there with “London, You’re a Lady”…

During our visit to the Tate Modern, we learned about one of its more unique artists, Michael Landy. Perhaps best known for his performance art piece Break Down in which he destroyed all 7,227 of his possessions on an assembly line (“even the food in his refrigerator?” asked one inquisitive student), Landy also created a piece entitled Semi-Detached in which he recreated his father’s house down to the last detail. This carbon copy of the house can be visited in a large wing of the Tate, and was our inspiration for the day.

semi detached
image from tate modern

Today’s art project was to create a house in the spirit of Michael Landy, but on a smaller scale. Each child was given a little box which, when folded out, looks like a little abode with a large bay window.

The children were instructed to place a person or thing inside the house, which could be seen through the window. The children then decorated the houses inside and out as they chose. One child did a small replica of her own home, while another decided to create a factory (a brilliant idea which made me think of Dickens….). Here’s one of my student’s creations with a little man with a monocle looking out the window…

Then, the piece de resistance! We put little battery-operated votives into each house and they became (drum roll, please) night lights for the children’s rooms! Such fun – and such a great way to channel our inner Landy (without destroying all of our refrigerated treats!) Here’s mine, which is now proudly displayed in my room…

Here are a few fun facts about the Tate Modern…

  • The Tate Modern is a museum located in London, England
  • The Tate Modern is Britain’s national gallery of international modern art and is the most visited modern art gallery in the world
  • The Tate Modern has around 4.7 million visitors per year
  • Located in an old power station, the Tate Modern is just one of a series of Tate galleries, including the Tate Britain, the Liverpool, Tate St. Ives and Tate Online
  • Some of the most famous artists with works in the Tate Modern include Rothko, Matisse, Picasso, Lichtenstein and Warhol
  • Our featured artist today is Michael Landy, an English artist best known for his performance piece installation Break Down in which he destroyed all 7,227 of his possessions on an assembly line
  • Another of Landy’s most beloved pieces is Semi-Detached in which he re-created a copy of the house where his dad lives – down to the last detail (including the flaking paint!)

And here are a few fun things you can do at home!

  • The Tate web site has one of the most amazing children’s sections I’ve ever seen – it’s fun, interactive, informative and utterly amazing (and the inspiration for today’s project!) Seriously, it’s brilliant. Check it out for yourself at
  • Why stop at a house? Visit your local grocery store to pick up some cardboard fruit boxes and create a car to go along with your dream house!
  • The Tate web site also has a wonderful online store that features one of my favorite all-time items – a game called Tate Art Collector in which players collect various pieces of art from the Tate Collection. Have fun as a family while simultaneously learning about art!

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