Tate Britain Audio Description for Home of Compassion

In spite of it being bitterly cold, the Home of Compassion headed happily into the centre of London to attend an audio description at Tate Britain.  These audio tours are headed and organised by Marcus Dickey Horley, the Curator of Public Programmes at Tate Galleries who has been at the cutting edge of accessibility programmes since he started working for Tate in 2006. 

Back in 2016 we were very honoured to have Marcus visit us at the Home of Compassion to deliver an excellent presentation on how the Tate Group have increased wheelchair access and delivery programmes, exhibitions and workshops for all disabilities; a subject that is obviously very close to our hearts.

This month we turned our attention towards sculpture, particularly post WW2 and had to exceptional opportunity to actually feel the priceless works of art.  The only caveat was that we removed all jewellery from our hands and wrists and wore special gloves that the Tate team provided us with.  Sculptures may seem indestructible, however when thousands of hands come into contact with a bronze for example, oils, dirt and scratches from rings and watches can cause irreparable damage not only to the structure of the piece but also the colour.  Patinas applied to bronzes tend to be a very thin layer which gives the artwork different colourisation at certain points.  We may assume that bronzes are naturally aged by time and touch, but the changes in colour have all been thought of long and hard by the artist and the gallery have a duty to present pieces how they would have looked when first presented to the world. 

Did you know that naturally occurring oils produced by our skin can etch metal?  Neither did we.  Did you know that sculptures are assessed prior to supervised touching workshops to ensure that none of the audience can be harmed by sharp edges?  No, hadn’t occurred to us before.  Also a huge bronze may look immovable to most of us, but apparently some can be pushed or rolled by the touching audience and cause damage; again, we had not even considered this as a concern. 

The talk was provided by two speakers, one was a Conservator who worked solely for Tate Britain and she explained about the lengthy processes of getting a piece ready for showing in an exhibition; from assessing stability of item, the suitability of the proposed surroundings, and also providing photographic evidence to support which way up the piece should be.  An example of Conservator work you will find that paintings are never displayed in the Duveen Hall as it is not atmospherically controlled so will have varying levels of humidity which will damage them.  Other works of art will not be displayed near natural light to avoid discolouration and fading.  And if you think a plaster sculpture is immune, think again, even plaster degrades very quickly with changes in atmospheric humidity.  As a final touch, the conservators even ensure the item has been dusted prior to a cover being placed on it; nothing is left to chance. 

Luckily the esteemed artist and art educator, Harry Baxter, was our second speaker.  We listened intently as he lingered over every inch of the sculptures describing colours, textures and scales of four of the Duveen Hall’s exhibits.  Harry has a wonderful way of pointing out things we had previously overlooked and was widely knowledgeable when questions were fired at him by the captivated audience.  Following the strict guidelines set by the Conservators we removed our rings, donned our gloves and tentatively felt our way back through history, feeling sculptures by Henry Moore, Lynn Chadwick and Kenneth Armitage. We are very grateful for the Tate for inviting us to such a prestigious event and hope our relationship with them continues for many years to come.

Home of Compassion is dedicated to providing the highest level of residential, nursing and dementia care for up to 71 elderly residents. The luxurious care home is set in delightful surroundings in the heart of Thames Ditton, with beautiful views over the river.

If you would like to find out more about life at Home of Compassion, our events and activities, or would like to arrange a visit to our home, please contact us on 0808 223 5406 or email manager.hoc@caringhomes.org.

Home of Compassion

Home Manager

Avril Jones


58 High Street,
Thames Ditton,

0808 223 5406
View care home

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