Nathan Coley We Must Cultivate Our Garden

Nathan Coley’s illuminated text work We Must Cultivate Our Garden (2006) is now on display on the North Landscape of Tate Modern.

The electric lightbulbs of Coley’s work spell out a phrase that is both a spectacle and a public statement. Standing in the landscape outside Tate Modern opposite the high-rise buildings in the City of London, the words seem to be urging us to act.

Nathan Coley takes his words from the satirical novella Candide (1759) by the French writer and philosopher Voltaire (1694–1778). Voltaire’s story of a young man who travels the world in search of happiness concludes with this ambiguous sentence. Coley has commented: ‘I think my work has a sense of politics and a sense of the world and also a kind of sense of humour.’

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We Must Cultivate Our Garden was purchased with assistance from Tate International Council in 2019. The current display is supported by Dasha and William Shenkman in memory of their mother Belle Shenkman (1928–1995) and by Tate Enterprises.
June 24, 2023
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