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Jeff Wall at Tate Modern

The first picture confronting the visitor to Jeff Wall's show at Tate Modern is a vivid chaotic scene called The Destroyed Room.

Picture for Women
Jeff Wall
Picture for Women 1979; Transparency in lightbox; 1630 x 2290 mm; Collection of the artist. Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York; Cinematographic photograph © the artist

Fifty key works by Canadian photographer Jeff Wall provide an overview of his career since the 1970s. He is best known for the huge colour transparencies mounted on wall-hung lightboxes which have been brought to Tate Modern and given generous space.

The effect is sometimes to make the visitor feel that he or she is part of the scene. Many pictures show grubby rooms or windswept urban fringe in North America.

Other pictures are contrived such as the shocking Destroyed Room at the start of the display. Even his latest work at the end, A view from an apartment, is not really a snapshot of a delightful domestic scene. It is a compilation of shots taken over a year in a flat specially rented with objects chosen by the models. The effect is of a happy home with perfect taste in reading (I-D magazine), food, furniture and quality of life.

Restoration 1993 shows actual conservators working the restoration of a panorama which itself a compilation.

There is a hefty admission charge for this special exhibition but all the images can be viewed on the Tate website. It includes a ground-breaking interactive guide.
• The accompanying book is by exhibition curator Sheena Wagstaff (Tate Publishing 12.99).
• Jeff Wall: Photographs 1978-2004 is at Tate Modern until Sunday 8 January; admission 7 (conc 5.50).

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