Millbank Penitentiary


Wood, glass, aluminium, paint, lacquer

112 x 112 x 16cm

Millbank Penitentiary previously stood on the site of Tate Britain in London. While the two institutions may be very different by their primary nature, similar practices and interactions occur within them. The attractive symmetrical form of the plan of Millbank Penitentiary was intended to allow the masters physical and mental control. The six petal-shaped prison blocks permitted the gaolers to segregate the various inmates by type and danger.

Millbank Penitentiary embodies many paradoxes: the flower like formality of the punitive plan, and the journey from Old World penal institution to modern day art gallery. The role of Tate, like most art galleries, is arguably to manage and control art. The works are split up in much the same way as the Millbank prisoners, categorised, and treated differently in each section. Visitors are processed through the galleries by prescribed routes, while receiving a particular set of experiences. The final irony is the high level of social constraint imposed. In order to maintain control certain rules are applied. Throughout the galleries the visitor route is monitored. The whole visit is surveyed.

Millbank Penitentiary on Wikipedia