Artist Merlin Carpenter Made a Painstaking Copy of the Tate Cafe on the Lower East Side

The Lower East Side gallery Reena Spaulings Fine Art is on a roll with its third consecutive exhibition consisting of a large-scale, transporting installation: After Klara Liden‘s indoor forest of discarded Christmas trees and Alex Israel‘s tacky talk show set, the British artist Merlin Carpenter has created a painstaking replica of the Tate‘s Café in the East Broadway gallery.

The installation, concealed behind double doors marked “No Re-Entry,” is remarkably thorough, complete with postcards, exhibition catalogues, Tate-branded paper cups, museum maps, and even some Damien Hirst memorabilia.

The artist, whose wears his name incredibly well, has created a rather magical piece of carpentry, complete with an enormous trompe l’oeil photograph on one wall emulating the view out the window of the Tate Café.

Carpenter’s installation isn’t completely seamless of course, and in places he has injected some touches of parody, like a selection of mocking posters that are seemingly free for the taking. Still, the artist must have spent ages smuggling his materials out of the real Tate Café. The sense of dislocation sparked by this impressive degree of verisimilitude is very uncanny. It makes for some surreal juxtapositions between the pleasantly dilapidated gallery, the Tate’s modern-neutral aesthetic, and the Lower East Side’s busy streets below.

Merlin Carpenter’s “Tate Café” remains on view at Reena Spaulings Fine Art through June 3.

— Benjamin Sutton