TEA, a cheery brew of Tenerife arts

Do you remember boring school trips to stuffy art galleries, where the highlight of your day was noshing your curled cheese sandwiches and thinking that at least it was a day free from the classroom? Art has come a long way since then and the 2 week old TEA, Tenerife Espacio de las Artes, in Santa Cruz, is here to blast those memories away with a wide ranging and challenging array of photos, paintings, sculptures – and even a man with bread rolls tied round his face !

Minimalist, thats the word I was groping for as I entered the 20,000 square metre building in Avenida de San Sebastian. The entrance hall is large, open and with a high ceiling and polished light wood block flooring and leads to a tight spiral stairwell serving the 3 exhibition halls. Tear drop shaped lights hang from the ceiling with long slender stalks welling into glass bowls holding the light bulbs, quite a first impression.

Henry Moore

Deciding to be organised about this, I started with La Coleccion in Sala A and let one of the 3 attendants pierce my ticket and usher me inside. The high, bright and white theme is repeated in here with the first 2 rooms housing giant photos of reclining figures, a couple of their subjects none too shy about what they reveal to the camera. I take photos as a neccessity to go with my writing, i’m no photographer, and I’m in awe of those who can master the lens like these exhibitors have. A familar figure reclines in the centre of the second room, Henry Moore’s “El Guerrero de Goslar” (above) has been living on the street in Rambla del General Franco since the 1973 “Art In The Street” exhibition brought several outside sculptures to Santa Cruz.

As I passed through the rooms I noticed that the few visitors on this Wednesday afternoon were outnumbered by the attendants, is it the sign of a good gallery if the security guards eyes seem to follow you around the room? A big chunk of La Coleccion is devoted to Tenerife’s famous painter Oscar Domiguez, who was born in Santa Cruz and died in Paris, where he had become a surrealist. I had only seen bits of his work but was pretty impressed with the works on offer here, he could certainly push a paint brush around.

There’s a nice mix of art at TEA, sculptures form a centre piece in most of the rooms, with paintings, pictures and even video clips around the walls. You can’t beat a bit of abstract work though, and a pair of wellies, squares of stone tiling and a ladder entwined with flourescent light tubes were among some of the more unusual and interesting sights.


Time to adjourn to the library, if Harry Potter and Doctor Who went to school together on a far flung planet, this would be their library. Massive, sprawling and very airey, the contents of the ancient Santa Cruz main library are gradually being transferred, but there are rows on rows of shelves, work desks, comfy sofas, magazine racks amd 36 internet ready computers for free use. The tear drop lights swarm down from the ceiling and when the sun shines through the side windows, the 2 wings are bathed in light amplified by the bright white desks. The attached cafe was not open on my visit but looked big enough to quench a thirst for knowledge.


Onward to the other halls, first the Sala C for Un Arma Visual, a montage of posters and memorabilia of life in the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1953. Stark, regimented and austere as you would expect, but very interesting all the same. And finally Sala B for Cosmos, in search of the origins from Kupka to Kubrick. I’m a bit of a sci fi buff so this was right up my space time vortex. A nice mix of mediums including footage from the space programme and some very speculative paintings. My favourite exhibit of the afternoon was The Last Room – a mental odyssey by Mathieu Briand. This stately cooled white room with sparse furniture and illuminated floor panels played on the senses with eerie background sound effects like breathing and the odd glass breaking, a very odd sensation.

The Last Room

Now about that man with the bread fettish, his name is Tatsumi Orimoto, I only got to see photos and film of his performance art exploits, but on the opening night of TEA, he and a few friends performed live with large amounts of bread rolls attached to their heads. The performance area has seating and awaits the next challenging display.

Emerging from TEA I felt I had been thoroughly immersed in the arts, and felt a lot better for it, it’s a fantastic addition to the cultural life of Tenerife. The shop next door has some unusual gift ideas for the art lover in your life and lots of specialist books on some of the featured artists. If you want to visit TEA, it’s just a short walk along from the bus station, next to Barranco Santos, opposite the African market. Opening times are 10 am to 8 pm every day except monday, entrance is 5 euros for adults, 2.50 for residents, and just one euro if you are over 65 or under 26. www.teatenerife.es