Phyllida Barlow: Dock, Tate Britain

A joyous celebration of ad hoc creativity fills the Duveen Galleries.

The revamping of Tate Britain has produced such an atmosphere of understated elegance that one hardly dares breathe for fear of displacing a particle of dust. An air of suffocating sterility has seeped into the displays, which are so tastefully arranged that even the most passionate works are drained of emotion; and without a ripple of feeling ruffling the exquisite calm of these genteel waters, British art appears unrelentingly polite – and provincial.

Thank heavens for Phyllida Barlow who manages, single-handedly, to energise the space by filling the Duveen galleries with an installation that is riotously impolite, determinedly crude and magnificently potent. Dock refers as much to industrial architecture, piers, bridges and shipping containers as to the history of sculpture. Yet with slick fabrication techniques and hi-tech gizmos noticeably absent, it is highly traditional – in the best possible sense.

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