The vast cavernous Turbine Hall at Tate Modern is often used to show some pretty big and awe-inspiring art works.  Sometimes the space just swallows up what is put in it and the art works look disappointing and under-whelming.  Sometimes, though, they wack you in the face like Anish Kapoor’s Marsyas did for me in 2002.  Ghanaian artist, El Anatsui has more recently had a go at filling the hall with three giant hangings: two huge sails billow at either ends of the hall.  Near to the entrance, one shimmers yellow on one side, red on the other and suspended high above the viewer, as though capturing the wind.  The other is at the darker, enclosed end of the hall and cascades menacingly, like a huge black waterfall, crashing in waves on rocks.  In the centre of the hall, and between the two, hang several translucent, human-like shapes that visually swim together (when viewed from a certain angle on the bridge) to form a golden moon or perhaps a world.

Whilst many people rushed through, barely glimpsing up, the hangings were not easily missed either, enticing those who had time to descend the bridge, examine, contemplate and eat their sandwiches, feeling very small.  What a delight then, to find that these huge forms are made out of millions of crushed bottle tops and metal fragments, carefully wired together with copper strands.  This global commercial waste (carrying hundreds of logos) has dark meaning such as environmental pollution, human dispersion, political oppression and survival.  But I also sensed joyful renewal, reform and hope in these twinkling and air-filled sails.  Was I wrong?

These commissions are funded by huge corporations and foundations, that wish to align themselves with art and its power to ‘connect beyond boundaries’.  If this funding wasn’t offered, artists like El Anatsui couldn’t possibly reach such large audiences or undertake such monumental pieces involving the collection of vast quantities of material, teams of people sorting and wiring in Nigeria, transportation, industrial-strength hanging and filmset lighting.   The creation of this art was made possible by Hyundai and Microsoft, but such is the paradox of today’s world.

Behind the Red Moon, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, until 14 April 2024