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 these have an admission fee.
Current and upcoming temporary exhibitions include:
Magic Realism: Art in Weimar Germany 1919–33
The Magic Realism exhibition (running until 14 July) focuses on artworks from Weimar Germany in the early part of the 20th century when Germany was experiencing a growth in political extremism. This exhibition provides a unique opportunity to see many works that are not normally on public display. Free.
This exhibition (6 June–8 September) focuses on the work of Natalia Goncharova, a Russian-born artist, costume and theatre set designer who did much of her work whilst living in Paris. £16.
This exhibition (3 July–27 October) focuses on the work of Takis (Panayiotis Vassilakis), who has created some of the 20th century’s most unique art, which incorporates electromagnetism and mid-20th-century electrical components. It is his largest exhibition ever held in the United Kingdom and it includes over 70 works of his unique sculptures. £16.
The Olafur Eliasson exhibition (11 July 2019–5 January 2020) displays sculpture and large-scale art installations that the Danish-Icelandic artist is noted for. £18.
Nam June Paik: The Future is Now
The Future is Now exhibition (17 October 2019–9 February 2020) has displays of sculpture and large art installations built using old television screens. The Korean-American artist is often credited with coining the phrase “information superhighway”, an early term for the internet, although the actual term he used in 1974 was actually “electronic superhighway”.
The Dora Maar exhibition (20 November 2019–15 March 2020) is billed as “the largest retrospective of Dora Maar ever held in the UK”. In the 1930s Dora Maar became noted for her photomontages, which became icons of surrealism. She worked alongside Pablo Picasso and documented the creation of his celebrated work Guernica (1937; in the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid) and in the same year, she was immortalised in Picasso’s Weeping Woman (which is in the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne). £13.
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.