PREJUDICES CAN easily be confirmed at the Tate Gallery's Forty Years of Modern Art Exhibition where visitors are greeted by a pile of wood. There is also little difficulty in finding a blank canvas or a collage of partly burnt books and a painting captioned Untitled and presented "anonymously".
However, since the show is free even the most sceptical should consider calling in to see Forty Years (daily until April 27) which is drawn from the Tate's own collection largely kept in store. Although it would be easy to walk round the exhibition the wrong way, there is, in the packed rooms, an attempt at coherence.
In the "American Pop Art" section Roy Lichtenstein's Whaam! can be recognised as the powerful comic strip which emerged along with Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans and repeated images. Visitors from Bournemouth will be surprised to find nearby a series of local picture postcard views in Tom Phillip's Benches.
British Pop Art is quite independent of America. Peter Blake, who founded the Brotherhood of Ruralists in 1975, has a real window in his 1982 Toy Shop filled with old toys (including a Blarney Stone pencil) reminding ug that British Pop started in the mid 1950s before the American movement.
This was also the period of Giacometti's sculptures, which are among the most impressive examples of modern art. The portrait heads have an intensity achieved by constant rapid remaking in an effort to capture an effect. His grey paintings are joined, for comparison, by Graham Sutherland's Somerset Maugham.
Also accorded his own room is Mark Rothko who offers a maroon experience from the 1950s. The paintings were intended for a New York restaurant but, after eight months' work, Rothko decided that they would be out of keeping in a fashionable setting and so gave them to the Tate, where he hoped they would be contemplated.
Seats are provided for the purpose, but just outside, amongst the "American Abstract Expressionism", is the recently rediscovered Tribute To The British People (gold sprayed carved oddments) which became fashionable when cruelly imitated in a series of Jaeger window displays.
Although the choices in the exhibition will be criticised there is an attempt at an understanding of modern art in what is a preview of , the expanded Tate of the 1990's now being built at the side of the familiar riverside facade.
Far more indulgent is the extravagant Art And Time exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery (daily except Mondays until April 27, admission £1.50) which comes to London from the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Although billed as a wide ranging study of how artists from the 19th and 20th centuries have attempted to present movement and the passage of time, there is an excessive concentration on modern art.
Visitors are drawn into the exhibits by Dan Graham's use of live cameras and time lapse effects which could cause an unexpected rise in sales of children's admission tickets (75p). The early electric model railway layout by Dennis Oppenheimer will hold the attention of young and old long after its time message has been absorbed.
Time is also exercising minds at the Victoria and Albert Museum where Roger Mayne's photographs of North Kensington in the 1950s are jogging memories. Although the display in the V&A's Photography Gallery (daily except Fridays until May; admission free) charts the early influences of Cartier-Bresson, Paul Strand and W Eugene Smith on Mayne, it is the unique pictures of Southam Street W10 that are the attraction.
The prints were made by the photographer soon after his visits on photographic paper no longer available. Most of the street has also disappeared leaving a few yards by the pub cowering under the 30 storey Trelick Tower — a block so appalling that the council is now paying compensation to those imprisoned on the top floor by broken lifts.