Enter through Real Life, exit in Nude

March 24, 2000

The Tate's decision to organise its collection around themes rather than around dates is academically sensible.

It is a transparent and convenient method of organising artworks and one that doesn't immediately appear too scholarly. It is, in short, a friendly approach.

And it is an idea other museums are also exploring. An exhibition called "1900", organised by the Royal Academy and shortly to open at the Guggenheim in New York, also sub-divides its content by genre: "A room of portraits", "A room of beautiful women", "A room of still lives" and so on. In putting this exhibition together, the Royal Academy was guided by the American art historian Robert Rosenblum, a man whom I understand to have championed this approach.

So the Tate is getting it right, but not so much breaking new ground as sharing good practice.

Stephen Farthing is Ruskin master of drawing, Oxford University. His book, The Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Art, will be published by Duckworth in May.

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