Tate Modern, one of the four galleries under the management of the Board of Trustees of Tate, is an international modern and contemporary art gallery and museum based in Bankside, London. Incredibly, Tate Modern is the third most popular tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, with about 5.84 million visitors in 2016 – more than double the figures for the Tower of London (2.74m) and four times that of the Stonehenge (1.38m). It is also the most visited and largest modern art museum in the world. Since its opening on 11 May 2000, Tate Modern has been visited by more than 40 million people.
Bankside Pier overlooking Tate Modern. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The history of Tate began in 1889 when sugar baron Henry Tate conceived of and funded the first Tate gallery at Millbank (now known as Tate Britain). The gallery officially opened its doors in 1897, and proved to be a popular addition to UK’s art and cultural scene. After his death, the operation of the gallery was taken over by a board of trustees.
In 1988, the trustees decided to open a second gallery, and on 24 June 1988, Tate Liverpool was officially launched by HRH Prince Charles at Albert Dock in Liverpool. Five years later, another gallery, Tate St Ives, was opened in Cornwall.
And wouldn’t you know it, plans for another gallery was announced a year later. However, this time the planning took long longer as the proposed site, the abandoned Bankside oil-fired power station required quite a bit of work before it can be used. So the trustees organised an international competition to select the project’s architect. Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron were eventually chosen as the lead architects in 1995.
Five years and £134 million later, the wonderfully designed Tate Modern opened its door to the public. Multiple extensions and further renovations have been made since then, including a £260m extension to the Blavatnik Building (formerly Switch House) financed by Sir Leonard Blavatnik, the richest man in Britain.
Tate Modern’s exhibits are displayed thematically in eight separate named areas, such as Living Cities or Between Object and Architecture. Most of the permanent exhibits are displayed on levels 3 and 5, while seasonal exhibitions are usually showcased on level 5. Level 7 is a recreation area with a café which offers a stunning view of the River Thames.
Befitting its name, the exhibits here are not limited to just artwork. Instead, modern art installations, photographic collection, live art demonstrations, films and even street performances can be seen here.
The exhibits here are too varied too sample, but visitors can look forward to a blend of household names like Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso, and lesser known contemporary artistes such as Ceal Floyer.
Tate Modern is highly accessible using any form of public transport. However, please consider taking advantage of the Tate Boat service from Tate Britain to experience everything Tate Modern has to offer. The boat ride costs £8.30 for adults and £4.15 for children (5-15 years old).
Tate Modern is open from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and 10.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Admission is free, except for seasonal exhibitions, which cost between £15 and £25.
A new bold building for the world's most popular modern art museum