Written By Chris Young
The Tate Modern is a large world-class contemporary art gallery located on the banks the River Thames in London.
Its international modern art and huge scale contemporary installations have captivated audiences since the forgotten power plant’s re-opening as a gallery in May 2000.
Since the opening day, the Tate Modern has received more than forty million visitors making it one of Britain’s top three tourist attractions currently averaging around six million guests per year.
Over the next paragraphs is our guide to this modern classic institution >>>
Table Of Contents
History of Tate Modern
By Man vyi – Own work (own photo), Public Domain, Link
The Tate Modern is one of a group of galleries, also including Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool (pictured), and Tate St Ives.
The Tate organisation does not only hold a large art collection but is also involved in research, conservation, education and outreach projects across the United Kingdom.
It is a non-departmental public body and exempt charity, governed by a Board of Trustees with a Director.
Henry Tate, an industrialist who made his money in the sugar industry, first opened his collection to the public in 1897.
The collection outgrew the National Gallery, and hence the Tate was born. Currently, their collection spans from sixteenth-century art to the present day.
In 1992, the Tate decided to develop a separate gallery for modern art and thus the Tate Modern was conceptualized.
Design & Build of the Site
Formerly the Bankside Power station, entry to the building is via a ramp down into the dramatic Turbine Hall, a huge over-scaled space and remnant of the site’s previous industrial use. Preeminent British architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott constructed the Bankside Power Station in two phases in 1947 and 1963.
Scott also designed the Battersea Power Station, Waterloo Bridge, and iconic red British telephone box.
The Bankside power station has a brick exterior with an interior steel structure and iconic ninety-nine-meter tall chimney.
In 1994, the Tate ran an international; design competition for the redevelopment project won by thoughtful Swiss architect’s Jacque Herzog & Pierre de Meuron.
The architect’s design is both respectful of the existing building and its industrial character, whilst making subtle gestures.
The most obvious intervention is a large two-storey glass light box on the roof of the existing power station.
The main exhibition spaces are contained in the Boiler House portion of the building.
Types of Art
The Tate Modern holds international modern and contemporary art beginning at 1900.
In the last twenty-five years, contemporary art has become very participatory, and a lot of space is needed for huge contemporary artworks and performances.
Olafur Eliasson’s Weather Project
Olafur Eliasson’s Weather Project is one of the most memorable images for frequent guests of the Tate Modern’s turbine hall.
A giant glowing sun-like orb was hung in the space silhouetting visitors and radiating a beautiful misty orange light.
This immersive experience was unforgettable for many who visited.
Anish Kapoor’s Marsyas
This beautiful red sculpture by Anish Kapoor also took over the Turbine hall stretched over several stories between two of the newly inserted bridges.
The huge stretched PVC sculpture captivated audiences and was described as a body in the sky.
Artworks are not limited to canvases and sculpture but also take the form of films, digital art and live performance art. The new Switch House building even contains a room for artist Louise Bourgeois’ spider sculptures and a cabinet of curiosities.
Information for Visitors
The Tate Modern opens at 10 am daily, until 6 pm Sunday to Thursday, and later until 10 pm on Friday and Saturday. Public transportation is the easiest method of getting to the gallery, as there is no visitor parking on site. The tube, bus and train are the best options.
St Paul’s tube station and St Paul’s Cathedral are a short walk from the Tate Modern across the Sir Norman Foster’s famous Millennium Bridge over the Thames.
Shakespeare’s famous Globe Theatre is also just next-door.
If you are a more than one gallery per day type of visitor, there is a Tate Boat, which runs every forty minutes between the Tate Modern and Tate Britain.
At the Tate, entry to the building and permanent collections remains free, while an additional entry fee is charged for the larger temporary exhibitions, which are usually up for three to four months.
In 2009, the Tate embarked on a controversial ten-storey second redevelopment project of the Bankside Switch House next-door to the power station.
This project increased gallery space and amenities by sixty percent. Swiss Architect’s Herzog & de Meuron continued their work also winning this second phase of the galleries’ construction.
They’re known for their careful restorations, contemporary insertions and intricate material based minimalist approach, with many cultural and art gallery projects across Europe.
More than ten million pounds were donated to the project in 2013, by shipping magnate Eyal Ofer, who has a strong desire to make contemporary art more accessible to the general public.
Reminiscent of a twisted brick pyramid the new extension uses bricks of a similar palette to the original power station but re-imagines them as a perforated lattice screen making the new extension glow and shimmer at night.
The architect’s original design was a much more controversial all glass stepped pyramid that had to be scaled back to the realised brick version.
It has a tough concrete interior and sticks to the industrial theme of the original buildings.
Large circulation spaces lead to the new galleries, spiraling around the existing electrical substation that remains.
A large viewing terrace at the top of the tower, contested by neighbouring residents, has become an attraction in itself offering unique views of London.
Appealing to adults, students, academics and children alike – don’t miss the most visited gallery in the world on your next trip to London.
A truly contemporary experience, the Tate Modern aims to show art that embraces its viewers and lingers in the memory of all who visit.