Wen Chen

Art Galleries

Hattie Lloyd 20/01/24

Tate Modern

Modern Art.

It’s not just a load of old Pollocks.

In fact, the array of different works on display here is quite astounding. Home to thousands of mesmerising paintings, unusual installations and avant-garde sculpture, the Tate Modern is Britain’s national modern art gallery, housed in a striking old power station.

The Tate Modern carries so much weight in the collective London consciousness that it’s hard to believe it only opened in 2000. The building itself – an iconic chunk of skyline designed by Battersea Power Station architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott – was only completed in 1963, closing less than 20 years later and lying empty for many more. Now, it’s one of the world’s most visited museums, with millions pouring in through its doors every year. And it’s only continuing to expand – the last few years have seen the addition of the Blavatnik Building, a towering structure offering more gallery space for post-1960s art; and the three former subterranean oil tanks, now converted into dedicated spaces for live performance art.

Tate Modern

Corentin Laigneau

Entrance to Tate Modern’s permanent collections is free, and covers eight different themed gallery spaces spread over three floors of the main building. Highlights include abstract work by synaesthetic painter Kandinsky, Matisse’s The Snail and Picasso’s Weeping Woman; Marcel Duchamp’s boundary-shattering signed urinal; Rodin’s The Kiss; Warhol’s pop art portraits of Marilyn Monroe; and an embarrassment of Rothkos, Bacons and Dalís besides. But you’ll find the most impressive landscape on the 10th floor of the Blavatnik Building – a free viewing platform with stunning panoramic views across the whole city (and wine).

Beyond the permanent collection, there’s also a set of ticketed temporary exhibitions offering in-depth retrospectives of particular artists, or broad-ranging explorations on a theme or artistic movement. Currently, you can check out the influence of photography on modern art in Capturing the Moment (now extended until 28th April); and walk through two of Yayoi Kusama’s dazzling infinity mirror rooms – if you can get tickets (it’s worth knowing if you’re reeeally desperate to see them, you can get free entry as a Tate member).

Yayoi Kusama_Chandelier Of Grief

Yayoi Kusama – Chandelier of Grief

And talking of legendary Japanese women, the latest exhibition at Tate Modern celebrates the work of Yoko Ono in Music Of The Mind (until 1st September, £22). For some people, putting the words ‘Yoko Ono’ and ‘music’ in the same sentence is not a pleasant notion. But the fact is that she’s responsible for some hugely impactful artwork over the decades (seven now), and the Tate has assembled over 200 of them here – more than we’ve ever seen in the UK before. And coming up in June is what’s sure to be a sell-out exhibition of interactive light artworks by Anthony McCall, creating sculptures in thin air that you’re invited to walk right through…

Tate Modern

Christian Battaglia

Beyond the main galleries, Tate Modern’s pièce de résistance, of course, is the grand Turbine Hall. Standing the full height of the main building, this vast space plays host to some of the gallery’s most impressive large-scale sculptures and installations, which pop up for a few months at a time. In the past, it’s been the site of giant looping slides, a sun, and a big crack down the middle of the floor, and Anicka Yi’s flying, scent-producing jellyfish robots were flying around the space. Currently it’s home to Ghanaian artist El Anatsui‘s dramatic suspended sculptures crafted from thousands of discarded bottle tops (on display until 14th April).

Once you’ve made as much sense as you can of the art on offer (and possibly caught yourself accidentally admiring a genuine fire extinguisher or two), you can debrief over a coffee – or something stronger – in the restaurant and bar, with views over St. Paul’s and the river. Or head down to the Terrace Bar in the Blavatnik building, which once a month plays host to ‘Tate Tap Takeovers’, with a guest craft brewery on the taps, and entertainment from DJs and Hip Hop Karaoke. That’s all part of a busy after-hours programme that also includes Tate Lates, where you can take part in themed activities, listen to artist talks, and take a peek at the exhibitions with a cocktail in hand.

It’s a very modern way of seeing art.


NOTE: Tate Modern is open daily 10am-6pm. It’s free to enter, but you’ll need to book entry in advance, and temporary exhibitions are ticketed – find out more, and book ahead, HERE.

Tate Modern | Bankside, SE1 9TG

Looking for art in the city? Check out what’s on in London’s art galleries

Tate Modern

Tate Modern, Bankside, SE1 9TG