The vista from the windows of the Tate Modern is so spectacular it’s easy to get distracted from its galleries full of awe-inspiring art.
Originally the home to the Bankside Power Station, the building was converted by the Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron and opened in 2000 as the Tate Modern Art Gallery. Set back from the Thames, behind a wide piazza and a plantation of trees, the massive, powerful brick structure, with its towering “lighthouse” chimney, dominates the riverbank and the skyline. The Millenium Bridge leads away from the piazza across the river to link it to the other side. Long windows, spaced along the building’s upper levels give real life, stunning pictures of Bankside, the Thames, St Pauls and the glass towers of the city.
The Tate Modern’s collection is organised under three headings – Material Gestures, poetry and Dream, Idea and Object and States of Flux – very useful for the layperson in tackling the enigma of modern art. It covers such movements as Abstractionism, Expressionism, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Conceptual Art, Constructivism, Cubism, Futurism and Pop Art. It includes the work of artists like Monet, Rothko, Carl Andie, Dan Flavin, Jenny Holzer, Picasso and Andy Warhol. The Tate is famed for its cutting edge and often controversial exhibits, like the giant Louise Bourgois spider which crouched menacingly in the courtyard when I first visited and Doris Salcedo’s sculpture, Shobboleth 2007, a giant crack which snaked threateningly across the floor of the cavernous basement Turbine Gallery, ready to swallow the unwitting and the unwary.
It’s worth taking time at the Tate, just to drink it all in; the brilliant views, the incredible collections and the amazing architecture itself. There are also two great bookshops to browse and a very nice café for coffee breaks. Entry to most exhibitions at the Tate is free.