Tate Britain is the original Tate Gallery, which opened in 1897 on the site of the former Millbank Prison and it features an extensive collection of British art spanning from the 1500s to the present day.
What to see at Tate Britain
The art gallery houses a collection of British art dating from Tudor times to the present day. It is particularly noted for its large collection of works of Joseph Mallord William Turner, who bequeathed his personal collection to the gallery.
The gallery is organised chronologically with more prominent artists having a room to themselves and some artists have multiple rooms, such as Turner who has eight rooms in the Clore Gallery.
Most galleries are located on the main floor (ground level if you enter by the Millbank entrance). This includes rooms organised by era starting in 1540 and working up to the present day as well as rooms highlighting specific artists including Henry Moore, Bernard Cohen, Antony Gormley, Craigie Horsfield, Elizabeth Price and John Constable plus the Turner collections in the Clore Gallery.
The upper floor has two rooms dedicated to William Blake.
Highlights of the gallery include The Cholmondeley Ladies (circa 1600–1610); Giovanna Baccelli (1782) by Thomas Gainsborough; Millais Ophelia (1851–1852 by Sir John Everett; Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (1885–1886) by John Singer Sargent; Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (circa 1946) by Francis Bacon; No Woman, No Cry (1998) by Chris Ofili; Ghost of a Flea (1819–1820 by William Blake; The Opening of Waterloo Bridge (1832) by John Constable and Peace, Burial at Sea (1842), the Decline and Fall of the Carthaginian Empire (1817) and self portrait (1799) by JMW Turner.
Tate Britain also hosts a programme of temporary exhibitions. Temporary exhibitions include:
This exhibition (running until 20 September 2020) is the largest exhibition of Aubrey Beardsley’s drawings for 50 years. Aubrey Beardsley is noted for his distinctive black and white drawings that were popular in the 1890s. £16.
Steve McQueen Year 3
Steve McQueen Year 3 is an exhibition (running until 31 January 2021) that comprises portraits and school photographs of Year 3 pupils from London primary schools. Free.
Art Now Cooking Sections: Salmon: A Red Herring
This exhibition (27 November 2020–28 February 2021) explores the reality of salmon, both as a fish and as a colour. The exhibition includes an installation that focuses on the impact of salmon farms as well as an exhibit showing how the world is organised through food. Free.
Turner’s Modern World
This exhibition (running 28 October 2020–7 March 2021) showcases many of JMW Turner’s most well-known works including The Burning of the Houses of Parliament (1834–1835), The Fighting Temeraire (1839) and Rain, Steam and Speed (1844). £22.
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly In League with the Night
Fly In League with the Night (18 November 2020–9 May 2021) is the first major survey of works by British artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. £13.
Hope. Struggle. Change. Photographing Britain and the World 1945–79
This exhibition (12 May–26 September 2021) showcases documentary photography that depicts the evolution of Britain’s place in the world. £16.
Visiting Tate Britain
Tate Britain is located on Millbank on the River Thames across from Vauxhall. The closest tube stations are Pimlico and Vauxhall (both within a 10-minute walk) and Vauxhall and Victoria railway stations are also within walking distance.
There is a programme of free guided tours. These include tours focusing on various topics including the growth of British art, people and places of the 19th century and the paintings of JMW Turner.
The Djanogly Café and Rex Whistler Restaurant are located on the lower floor (ground level if you enter via the Manton entrance). The Djanogly Café is the more casual of the two with a nice selection of cakes, pastries, salads, pies and quiches and coffee that is roasted on site whilst the Rex Whistler Restaurant, which features Rex Whistler’s mural The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats, is much fancier with table service and an extensive wine list.
Most visitors spend 1–2 hours exploring Tate Britain.