In the second thrilling edition of our culture series, we’ll be heading down to the capital to suss out the cream of the culture crop. And while there’s an almost endless array of stunning venues to choose from, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the UK’s most iconic gallery- Tate Modern.
Tate Modern opened its doors back in 2000, making use of Bankside’s old power station. The building has since been revamped and embellished to create a distinct environment that plays host to international collections of modern and contemporary artworks; there are over 800 different works from over 50 countries, with solo displays split 50-50 between male and female artists. Tate’s also one of the most visited galleries in the world, so be prepared for things to be fairly busy during your visit. Try to arrive as early as possible to avoid the worst of the crowds, and it’ll also give you a sterling chance of making it round the entire gallery in a day. It’s a bit of a beast.
For those of you who haven’t been before, let me set the scene for you. When arriving at Southbank you’ll be greeted by a vast, industrial-style building, which seems more akin to the architecture of Manchester than anything else, but with a distinct dystopian twist. Intimidating to say the least, and an unconventional choice of venue for a swanky selection of art. But that’s precisely the point- the overt contrast of the rugged, imposing structure serves as the perfect juxtaposition to the contemporary art it houses. You’d be forgiven to visit Tate and not actually see any exhibitions, as the building itself is an absolute triumph of architecture.
The lower floors house a diverse range of material, including works from the likes of Joan Jonas and Jordan Wolfson, which can be found in The Tanks and Turbine Hall. Here you can experience a blend of moving image and sound works in stunning subterranean rooms, as well as a selection of works from the project No Ghost Just a Shell. An eerie, intriguing space that offers a distinctly thought- provoking introduction to my first visit.
On level 3 you can visit seasonal exhibitions, but you will have to pay for access. If you’re happy to do so, you can visit The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932, and The Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art. However, if you’re wanting to make use of the free facilities of Tate, take the escalator up to level 4 where you’ll find a dazzling collection of works, including a rather fantastic display of neon lights and films courtesy of Bruce Nauman. Naturally, I was drawn to this particular exhibit more than any other, so spent a fair amount of time taking snaps and admiring some serious aesthetics. (You’ll find my love of neon in full force over on my Instagram, if you haven’t checked it out already.)
If you’re looking for more interactive sessions during your visit, head to level 5 for Tate Exchange. These sessions essentially examine how art can make a difference not only to people’s lives, but also society as a whole. Open Tuesdays to Sundays, it’s a perfect way to immerse yourself in workshops, debates and seminars, with this month’s focus upon the theme of Production. Be sure to check Tate Modern’s online calendar for a full list of classes.
No visit to Tate Modern would be complete without an obligatory trip up to the 10th floor of the Blavatnik Building; this functions as an open viewing terrace, where you can enjoy 360-degree views of London’s skyline. There’s also a handy bar, so you can take in the scenery whilst supping on a gin or two. What more could you ask for?
In short, I cannot recommend Tate Modern more highly. It positively oozes cultural panache, whilst still remaining highly accessible. And therein lies the success of Tate- it demonstrates in spectacular style that art is not merely esoteric, but something that we can all identify with. Whether it reflects a part of who we are, an existential dilemma, or even something that we may find aesthetically pleasing or challenging, art serves as an expression of the human condition, regardless of social status or background.
It is places like Tate Modern that truly brings art to the masses, whilst pushing the boundaries of modern artistic practice. So if you’re planning to visit a gallery or two in London, make sure it’s this one.
To found out more information about Tate Modern and its exhibitions, visit http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern