Your spiral view 2002 features in Olafur Eliasson's In Real Life exhibition at Tate Modern. Photo by Anders Sune Berg

Tate apologises after visitor criticises lack of wheelchair access

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 15.08.2019
Olafur Eliasson sculpture cannot be made safely accessible, says gallery
Tate Modern has apologised after a visitor who uses a wheelchair criticised the gallery over the lack of access to a mirrored tunnel in its current Olafur Eliasson exhibition.

In a widely-shared thread on Twitter, Ciara O’Connor, a writer for the Irish Sunday Independent, described how, during a visit to the In Real Life exhibition, her friend had asked a gallery attendant for a ramp for her so she could access the raised walkway running through the sculpture in her wheelchair.

She said the attendant “was immediately cross and weirdly defensive” and spoke to her “like she was a naughty and particularly stupid toddler”, telling her that it was “the curator’s choice” not to include a ramp and that she could go around the side.

She said: “That’s the story of my life, and of every disabled person’s life. Going around things. Looking from the outside. Watching other people enjoy life, art, transport, whatever, the way that it’s ‘supposed’ to be enjoyed - and getting told we’re lucky to be able to watch, to go around the outside.

“I’m fucking sick of it. I don’t want to go around the outside. I want a fucking ramp. I want elevators. I want wide doorways. I want accessible toilets that aren’t storage cupboards. I want to get on a train, and go to a place all by myself. I don’t want to ask permission. I don’t want to be grateful for every reasonable adjustment.”


A Tate spokeswoman apologised for the lack of access and said the gallery had taken the comments on board. She said Tate had since consulted with Eliasson but was unable to make the exhibit safely accessible for wheelchair users.

She said: “We are very sorry that there is no wheelchair access to Your spiral view 2002. We had looked into whether the work could be made accessible but, even if a ramp were added, the mirrored walkway that is an integral part of the sculpture is structurally too narrow to be made safe for wheelchair use.

“In response to recent comments, we revisited this with the artist and technicians to see if there were any other viable options. However, after a full assessment, unfortunately the work cannot be made safely accessible for wheelchair users.

“We decided to include Your spiral view in the exhibition as it is the only sculpture of its type in Olafur Eliasson’s body of work which can be loaned for exhibitions, and a more accessible alternative does not exist.

“We recognise that this has caused an access issue for wheelchair users for which we are sorry and the comments we have received will be taken on board in future decision-making.”

Comments

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22.08.2019, 16:35
Working in an environment which has many access issues regarding stairs and no lifts, a good deal of thought for completing my AMA is going into how to improve the experience for those who cannot see everything they hoped to see and do.

I think I would be upset to discover that the Tate had not thought of this as a potential scenario. The Tate should have thought about how it could show the sensation of going through the middle of a spiral (using VR perhaps). This was probably not foreseen as it is a building that all the features a modern building is expected to have to meet access requirements.
 

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