A Twitter Tour of Tate Museum’s ‘Lichtenstein: A Retrospective’

Reading time: 2 min

For one semester as an undergraduate student at Oberlin College, a real Roy Lichtenstein print hung above my dormroom bed. (My college had an art rental program that let students borrow pieces from the museum’s extensive collection for just $5.) I wasn’t familiar with Lichtenstein at the time, but the artwork appealed to me with its comic-book paneling, pop sensibility and the fact that it hadn’t yet been taken by the more dilligent students who had stayed up the previous night to snag their favorites first.

Roy Lichtenstein Whaam! 1963 Acrylic and oil on canvas support: 1727 x 4064 mm frame: 1747 x 4084 x 60 mm Purchased 1966© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein, via Tate Modern
Nearly a decade later, aside from general knowledge of pop art, Benday dots and the flickered memories of the print, I still didn’t know much about Lichtenstein and his work. That’s where Tate Modern and Twitter came in. Last week, as a way to broadcast its Lichtenstein retrospective to a broader audience than London, Tate Modern curators gave a Twitter tour of the exhibition. The whole tour (#TateTour), questions and all, lasted less than an hour but is preserved idefinitely online. By using Twitter as the communication medium, the curators were forced to be succinct — a difficult task when you’re trying to convey a lifetime of visual information. It’s an issue many designers and journalists face, working remotely. How do I communicate as quickly and accurately as possible? Pictures help. As does a comprehensive knowledge of your material — but one that’s not sentimental about cutting extraneous detail.
Roy Lichtenstein, Landscape in Fog 1996 © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/DACS 2012, via Tate Modern
The tour went room by room in tweets, embedding photos and including interesting tidbits about the artist and his oeuvre: I learned that Lichtensein’s mechanical style was a response to the fluidity of abstract expressionism. I learned that Lichtenstein’s take on “Femme d’Alger” was actually meant as a sign of respect to Pablo Picasso, not a pop sendup. I even learned about Lichtenstein’s later works and how they were inspired by and infused with Chinese landscape paintings.

In the three minute video linked from the Twitter tour, co-curator  Iria Candela gives more info and a better visual idea of the exhibition. The tour wasn’t an exhaustive treatise on Lichtenstein, but it wasn’t supposed to be. It was a well-rounded taste of the exhibition and an admirable effort on behalf of the museum to branch outside physical walls, dormrooms included. Lichtenstein: A Retrospective Tate Modern Through May 27, 2013 @tate Rani Molla has a digital media master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School. She’s a journalism reader, writer, photographer, videographer, data visualizer and general doer. Follow her on Twitter

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