Artist Kara Walker set to take on this year’s Hyundai Commission
Culture30 August 2019
In 2014, Tate and Hyundai announced a major long-term partnership. Each year, for 10 years from 2015 until 2025, an artist would be given the chance to create a new work that would be displayed for six months in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.
This year is the turn of New York-based artist Kara Walker, who is renowned for her explorations of race, gender, sexuality and violence. Every year, the exact nature of the Hyundai Commission is kept top secret until its October launch. Kara’s previous works have included everything from drawings, prints and murals to shadow puppets, projections and sculptures. However, she is perhaps best known for her use of black cut-paper silhouetted figures in provocative and elaborate installations, often referencing the history of slavery in the USA.
“Kara Walker fearlessly tackles some of the most complex issues we face today. Her work addresses history and identity with a powerful directness, but also with great understanding, nuance and wit,” says Frances Morris, Director, Tate Modern. “Seeing her respond to the industrial scale of the Turbine Hall – and the wider context of London and British history – is a hugely exciting proposition.”
Hyundai has been supporting art initiatives around the world since 2013. Along with the partnership with Tate, it has long-term partnerships with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA).
Kara Walker’s Hyundai Commission will be open to the public from 02 October until 05 April 2020.
Kara Walker, Detail from Christ's Entry into Journalism 2017 © Kara Walker
The four that have gone before
Empty Lot (2015)
The inaugural Hyundai Commission saw Abraham Cruzvillegas install a large sculpture that provoked questions about the city and nature, as well as the wider ideas of chance, change, and hope. Empty Lot was a large sculpture made from scaffolding, wooden planters, and soil collected from parks across London. Nothing was planted in the soil, which was lit by lamps and watered throughout the six-month display to create a totally unpredictable installation.
Hyundai Commission: Abraham Cruzvillegas – Empty Lot 2015 © Abraham Cruzvillegas; Photo © Tate
In 2016, Philippe Parreno turned the Tate’s Turbine Hall into an immersive and interactive aquarium. Visitors could interact with the installation where numerous inflatable fish floated from the ceiling to within touching distance (visitors were encouraged to give them a nudge!). Meanwhile, a combination of multiple screens and speakers played short films to ever-changing sound effects. There was even a ‘laboratory’ at the back of the installation containing bacteria that helped to control the entire experience.
Hyundai Commission: Philippe Parreno – Anywhen 2016 © Tate
One Two Three Swing! (2017)
“We wanted to restore the belief that if we act collectively, we can have an impact,” said Bjørn Christiansen, one third of art collective SUPERFLEX, about their interactive installation One Two Three Swing! 2017’s Hyundai Commission consisted of a line of swings (each designed for three people) that weaved through the Turbine Hall, ploughed through a wall, and carried on outside the building. “Meeting strangers is the first step to breaking down barriers with people from other cultures, and the swings can only work with participation,” said Bjørn. “It shows how play and joy can grab people’s attention.”
Hyundai Commission: SUPERFLEX – One Two Three Swing! 2017 © Tate
Hyundai Commission: Tania Bruguera: 10,148,451 (2018)
In response to the crisis in migration, Cuban artist and activist Tania Bruguera focused on the status of the neighbour and the importance of local interaction for the fourth Hyundai Commission. She invited visitors to take part in symbolic actions, such as revealing a hidden image underneath a heat-sensitive floor. The work’s title was an ever-increasing figure: the number of people who migrated from one country to another added to the number of migrant deaths over a certain period. Instead of being printed on posters or labels, the number was stamped directly onto visitors’ wrists.
Hyundai Commission: Tania Bruguera – 10,148,451 2018 © Tate