The Tate Modern is a large modern art museum that is housed in a former power station at the southern end of the Millennium Bridge. Exhibits are organised by theme, which sees works by famous artists such as Picasso go up alongside relatively unknown artists.
What to see at the Tate Modern
Tate Modern is one of the world’s largest museums devoted to modern and contemporary art, but it lacks the focus of some smaller art galleries that concentrate on a specific artist or artistic style.
The gallery is comprised of two main buildings, the seven-storey Boiler House and the 11-storey Blavatnik Building, both of which are connected by the massive Turbine Hall. The free displays from the Tate Modern’s permanent collection are located on levels two and four of the Boiler House and level zero, two, three and four of the Blavatnik Building.
The museum is organised according to theme as opposed to many other art galleries, which are traditionally organised either chronologically or by artist.
It is best to start at the Start Display on level two of the Boiler House. This display serves as an introduction to the free collection giving you background information on the best-known artworks from the Tate Modern’s collection. The Start Display features The Snail by Henri Matisse (1953) and Cossacks by Wassily Kandinsky (1910–1911).
Other works on level two include Water-Lilies by Claude Monet (1916), The Annunciation by René Magritte (1930), Autumnal Cannibalism by Salvador Dalí (1936), Lobster Telephone by Salvador Dalí (1936) and the Metamorphosis of Narcissus also by Salvador Dalí (1937).
Works on display on level four include Cadeau by Man Ray (1921), Fountain by Marcel Duchamp (1917), Babel by Cildo Meireles (2001) and Marilyn Diptych by Andy Warhol (1962).
The displays in the Blavatnik Building show how art has become more active since the 1960s. There are fewer exhibits in this building and those exhibits are less well known but they are larger, more interactive, exhibits that are still worth a look.
Level 10 of the Blavatnik Building is a viewing platform with fantastic views of the city.
In addition to its permanent collection, the Tate Modern also has a programme of temporary exhibitions, most of which have an admission fee.
Current and upcoming temporary exhibitions include:
Sophie Taeuber-Arp was one of the leading abstract artists of the 1920s and 1930s and this exhibition (15 July–17 October 2021) showcases the artist’s groundbreaking work, which has made a major contribution to modern art and design. £16.
This exhibition (until 14 November 2021) is a living art installation comprising 100 oak trees on Tate Modern’s South Terrace. The trees were planted from acorns from 7000 Oaks a similar social sculpture in Kassel, Germany. Free.
The EY Exhibition: The Making of Rodin
This major exhibition (until 21 November 2021) provides a unique insight into the life of Auguste Rodin, examining how the artist works and showcasing over 150 of the famous sculptor’s works. £18.
A Year in Art: Australia 1992
This exhibition (summer 2021–summer 2022) feature artworks highlighting the social issues surrounding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land rights in Australia. Free.
The Lubaina Himid exhibition (25 November 2021–22 May 2022) features both the artist’s most recent works alongside highlights from her influential career.
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms
Infinity Mirror Rooms (14 June 2021–12 June 2022) is one of Yayoi Kusama’s largest art installations, which is presented alongside Chandelier of Grief, a room of rotating crystal chandeliers.
This exhibition (postponed until 2021) showcases the Polish artist’s unique work that consists of woven sisal fibre sculpture on display in the 64m- (210 ft)-long gallery inside the Tate Modern’s Blavatnik Building.
Visiting the Tate Modern
The Tate Modern is located in the Bankside neighbourhood on the south bank of the River Thames, just across the Millennium Bridge from the City of London. Blackfriars and Southwark are the closest tube stations (both around a 10-minute walk from the museum) although London Bridge, Mansion House and St Paul’s are also a short walk away. The Tate Modern is almost next door to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and less than a 15-minute walk from St Paul’s Cathedral.
The Tate app features audio tours (available in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish) and also has floor plans to help you find your way around. The app is free on the App Store (for Apple iPhones) and the Google Play store (for Android phones).
There are also several free guided tours of parts of the Tate Modern collection. These depart Boiler House level two at 11am and noon, Blavatnik Building level two at 11.30am, Blavatnik Building level three at 12.30pm, Boiler House level four at 2pm and 3pm and Blavatnik Building level four at 2.30pm and 3.30pm.
The Tate Modern has several cafes, bars and restaurants. Many of these are near the main entrances on level one and there is also an espresso bar on level three of the Boiler House, a restaurant and bar on level six of the Boiler House, a restaurant on level nine of the Blavatnik Building and a cafe on level 10 of the Blavatnik Building. There are also exclusive members-only bars in both buildings that are reserved solely for Tate members.
Most visitors spend 1–2 hours in the museum.