Art Around the World

Former Power Station to Show Best in Modern Art

By Tom Gross, April 04, 2000

To great fanfare, Queen Elizabeth of England, May 12, 2000 sees the opening of the new branch of the Tate Gallery in London. To be known as the “Tate Modern,” the new museum promises to rival New York’s Museum of Modern Art as the world’s leading museum of twentieth and twenty-first century art. It is anticipated that the opening will be the biggest art event in Europe this year.

$200m has been spent converting an enormous old power station in a rundown area of the river Thames. (much of the funding has come from Britain’s government-sponsored national lottery). The old Tate, further west up the Thames at Millbank will be remodeled and known as the Tate Britain, showing only British art.

Although the defunct power station on the south side of the river lies opposite London’s famous St Paul’s Cathedral, the south side, known as Southwark, has become a shabby, inner-city district. Now the area around the building is being landscaped and empty backstreets restored, heralding a regeneration of the whole neighborhood, which also includes the highly successful reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

A new footbridge the first new bridge in central London for over a century designed by architect Norman Foster and sculptor Anthony Caro, will allow visitors to approach the new Tate from across the water.

The Tate Modern, spectacularly designed by Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron, soars up seven stories, some of them exceptionally lofty. The first three floors will be devoted to art from around the world, and the fourth will contain large-scale video installations and other giant pieces. Three more floors are waiting to be filled. A crown of glass, which glows at night, will cover the roof, and the building’s original towering chimney will be left in place to retain a little of the “power station feel.” The seventh floor restaurant and bar will offer diners one of the best views of London.

The existing Tate had so much art that three quarters of it languished in the basement, so much of the exhibition space there will also be taken up by fresh displays. A new riverbus will ferry visitors between the two Tates for those who want to visit both.

Some of the works from the old Tate including Matisse’s Snail, Monet’s Waterlillies and Picasso’s Weeping Woman, together with more modern works will now be transferred to the enlarged space of the Tate Modern. New works are also being purchased. In December the Tate bought one of the last great Piet Mondrian paintings still in private hands.

And best of all, entrance to the new gallery will be free!

Article copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.