Art & Culture Culture

Bruce Nauman at Tate Modern

Words by Keven Amfo

12 October 2020


Discover an expansive show of this trailblazing American artist, opening this month at Tate Modern.

Good Boy Bad Boy 1985. Video, 2 monitors, colour and audio (mono). 60 min, 52sec. Tate: Purchased 1994. © ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020

Having just opened last week, Tate Modern presents a significant show of pioneering American artist Bruce Nauman's work. Incredibly innovative, he has experimented dramatically with different materials and mediums; he often explores language and control in his work — although his subject matter indeed cannot be classified.

Having inspired a generation of artists during his half-century-long career, it's hard to define precisely how influential he's been. To better understand his impact and the depth of his practice, discover these five works, each of which are on view at Tate Modern.

A Cast of the Space Under My Chair

A Cast of the Space Under My Chair 1965–1968. Concrete. 445 x 391 x 371 mm. Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands. Formerly in the Visser Collection. Purchased with support from the Mondriaan Foundation. © ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020

A Cast Of Space Under My Chair 1965/68

An apt example of Nauman's tendency to incorporate elements of performance into his works, this cement sculpture serves to draw our attention to the negative space which exists under a chair — typically overlooked as the focus is on the chair itself. Says Tate, 'This piece highlights Nauman's conceptual and often performative approach towards sculpture, the body and studio practice.'

Double Steel Cage Piece 1974

Industrial looking and constructed of steel caging, this minimalist work of sculpture was created to invite physical participation (not an option during this exhibition due to social distancing measures). A cage within a cage, it beckons the sensation of being trapped, evocative of jail fencing, and what Tate aptly explains displays 'Nauman's interest in surveillance and societal control.'

One Hundred Live and Die

One Hundred Live and Die 1984. Neon tubing with clear glass tubing on metal monolith. 299.7 x 335.9 x 53.3. Collection Benesse Holdings, Inc./Benesse House Museum, Naoshima. © Bruce Nauman / ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020, Courtesy Sperone Westwater, New York

One Hundred Live and Die 1984

This commanding piece towers over the viewer, featuring four tall columns each with flashing neon words in grid format. 'Inspired by a chance encounter with a neon advertisement leftover in his San Francisco studio (a former grocery store), Nauman created several ground-breaking neon signs that combine text and colour to reveal the ambiguities beneath everyday phrases and expressions.'

Anthro Socio Rinde Spinning

Anthro / Socio (Rinde Spinning) 1992. Colour, sound, six video-disc, NTSC, loop. Dimensions variable. © Hamburger Kunsthalle / bpk © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, photo: Kay Riechers to: Christoph Irrgang. © ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020

Anthro/Socio (Rinde Spinning) 1992

Very well known, this is an installation piece that is both aggressive and contemplative. Six monitors feature a disembodied head of a man (performer Rinde Eckert) repeating three phrases, provoking much thought in the viewer. Tate celebrates this piece for the interaction it forces upon the viewer. 'It reveals how Nauman consistently challenges the conventions of the gallery experience and confronts viewers directly with their own physical presence.'

Falls Pratfalls and Sleights of Hand

Falls, Pratfalls and Sleights of Hand (Clean Version) 1993. Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg. © ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020

Falls, Pratfalls and Sleights of Hand (Clean Version) 1993

Set in the final room of the exhibition, the five videos in this piece are distorted, creating an eerie effect. Partially inspired by a Vegas performance he saw, Tate says it explores 'the themes of bodily presence and human perception that have engaged Nauman throughout his career.'

Lead gallery image: Walking in an Exaggerated Manner Around the Perimeter of a Square 1967–1968. 16mm film on video, projected, black and white, sound. 10min. Exhibition file courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York. © ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020

Bruce Nauman will be on view at Tate Modern until 21st February 2021. All images are courtesy of Tate Modern. For further information on Quintessentially's Art Patrons programme, please contact us here.

More to explore

Art & Culture

A guide to Hong Kong Arts Month

The annual arts festival returns this March – here’s everything you need to know.

Read more
Art & Culture

2023’s best exhibitions by female artists

Although historically underrepresented in major galleries, female artists are putting on many shows this year. Here, our Art Advisor selects her top…

Read more
Art & Culture

Unmissable London exhibitions in 2023

Quintessentially’s Art Advisor outlines some of the shows we can look forward to this coming year.

Read more


Stay in the know with our monthly newsletter – a complimentary edit of everything new and noteworthy in the luxury world.

By signing up to the newsletter you confirm you have read & agree to the Privacy Policy.

Contact us