Where did it all begin?
A very long time ago in 1889, the industrialist Henry Tate who had amassed his fortune through refining sugar, decided to donate his collection of British Art to the nation. The National Gallery was unable to accommodate the work and so it was decided that a building dedicated to his collection was needed to house not simply Tate's collection but in time, the works of other British artists too.
The former prison, Millbank Penitentiary which is located in Pimlico was chosen as the place to build the gallery and Sidney R J Smith, an architect was selected to design the new purpose-built gallery.
In 2015 the name Tate is synonymous with galleries and over the past 100-years has found itself becoming something of an institution not just to the British, but to art appreciators the world over. With four Tate Galleries in existence, two in London, one in Liverpool and one in St.Ives, nearly every corner of the UK contains some of Henry Tate's legacy. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have, as usual, been left out! Perhaps they're next to receive some of the Tate treatment.
What about the Tate Modern?
The former Power Station on London's South Bank was a vast abandoned building before it was considered to become a gallery of modern art. Now it has elevated in status to become one of the main attractions on this famous stretch of river. With an imposing chimney, the building itself is a work of industrial art that will be forever protected from the risk of dilapidation and decay.
The Tate Modern extension
After 8-years of extensive planning The Tate Modern was finally opened to the public in 2000. The architects who led the original project Herzog & de Meuron returned to the South Bank in 2009 to take charge of the extension of the Tate Modern. The new addition will make use of the Power Stations redundant oil tanks as well as create additional space to maximise on the visitors experience.
What can I see at the Tate Modern?
The Tate modern exhibits permanent and temporary art works. Perhaps one of the most impressive facets of the gallery is the grand Turbine hall. The Turbine Hall has accommodated immense art installations such as Doris Salcedo's 'Crack', Carsten Holler's 'Slides', as well as Ai Wei Wei's 'Sunflower Seeds' exhibition. Due to the vastness of the space, the Turbine hall has the capacity to accommodate ambitious pieces of art.
In recent times, many of the exhibitions being exhibited in the hall have attracted a lot of media attention and one in particular managed to perplex the audience: the Crack. The debate about how Salcedo managed to create a giant crack in the solid concrete floor remains a well-protected secret, and urban myth has it that not even the Tate Gallery workers themselves know how it was achieved.
Ai Wei Wei's 'Sunflower Seeds' exhibited in 2010 attracted an equal amount of attention but most in the form of controversy. The exhibition intended for visitors to walk on the 1 million sunflowers barefoot, but in true health and safety fashion, the exhibition was deemed hazardous. Instead, disappointed visitors were forced to treat the exhibition like a spectators sport, standing behind railings (with the exception of the outskirts- these could be touched by the visitor. The concept had been for the exhibition to be interactive. Although each visitor was given a bag of sunflower seeds as a souvenir-bonus!
The permanent collection
The permanent collection houses famous as well as iconic works by Andy Warhol's 'Marilyn Diptych', Salvador Dali's, 'Metamorphosis of Narcissus' and Pablo Picasso's, 'Nude, Green Leaves and Bust.' A day out at the Tate Modern could see you whiling away an hour or an entire day. The cafe and restaurants will keep you well watered and fed and if you need to step outside for some fresh air, you can make the most of one of the many balconies from where you can stand to appreciate some of London's many recognisable buildings.
Entry to the gallery is free although some exhibitions are chargeable