Tate Modern is a modern art gallery located in London. It is Britain’s national gallery of international modern art and forms part of the Tate group (together with Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool, Tate St Ives and Tate Online). It is based in the former Bankside Power Station, in the Bankside area of the London Borough of Southwark. Tate holds the national collection of British art from 1900 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art. Tate Modern is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world. As with the UK’s other national galleries and museums, there is no admission charge for access to the collection displays, which take up the majority of the gallery space, while tickets must be purchased for the major temporary exhibitions.
Tate Modern is housed in the former Bankside Power Station, which was originally designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the architect of Battersea Power Station, and built in two stages between 1947 and 1963. It is directly across the river from St Paul’s Cathedral. The power station closed in 1981.
Prior to redevelopment, the power station was a 200 m (660 ft) long, steel framed, brick clad building with a substantial central chimney standing 99 m (325 ft). The structure was roughly divided into three main areas each running east-west – the huge main turbine hall in the centre, with the boiler house to the north and the switch house to the south.
For many years after closure Bankside Power station was at risk of being demolished by developers. Many people campaigned for the building to be saved and put forward suggestions for possible new uses. An application to list the building was refused. In April 1994 the Tate Gallery announced that Bankside would be the home for the new Tate Modern. In July of the same year, an international competition was launched to select an architect for the new gallery. Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron of Herzog & de Meuron were announced as the winning architects in January 1995. The £134 million conversion to the Tate Modern started in June 1995 and completed in January 2000.
A Groom Mounted on a Chestnut Hunter, He Holds a Bay Hunter by the Reins Jacques-Laurent Agasse early 19th century
The most obvious external change was the two-story glass extension on one half of the roof. Much of the original internal structure remained, including the cavernous main turbine hall, which retained the overhead travelling crane. An electrical substation, taking up the Switch House in the southern third of the building, remained on-site and owned by the French power company EDF Energy while Tate took over the northern Boiler House for Tate Modern’s main exhibition spaces.
The history of the site as well as information about the conversion was the basis for a 2008 documentary Architects Herzog and de Meuron: Alchemy of Building & Tate Modern. This challenging conversion work was carried by Carillion.
Tate Modern was opened by the Queen on 11 May 2000.
Tate Modern received 5.25 million visitors in its first year. The previous year the three existing Tate galleries had received 2.5 million visitors combined.
Tate Modern had attracted more visitors than originally expected and plans to expand it had been in preparation since 2004. These plans focused on the south west of the building with the intention of providing 5,000m2 of new display space, almost doubling the amount of display space.
The southern third of the building was retained by the French power company EDF Energy as an electrical substation. In 2006, the company released the western half of this holding and plans were made to replace the structure with a tower extension to the museum, initially planned to be completed in 2015. The tower was to be built over the old oil storage tanks, which would be converted to a performance art space. Structural, geotechnical, civil, and façade engineering and environmental consultancy was undertaken by Ramboll between 2008 and 2016.
This project was initially costed at £215 million. Of the money raised, £50 million came from the UK government; £7 million from the London Development Agency; £6 million from philanthropist John Studzinski; and donations from, among others, the Sultanate of Oman and Elisabeth Murdoch.
In June 2013, international shipping and property magnate Eyal Ofer pledged £10m to the extension project, making it to 85% of the required funds. Eyal Ofer, chairman of London-based Zodiac Maritime Agencies, said the donation made through his family foundation would enable “an iconic institution to enhance the experience and accessibility of contemporary art”. The Tate director, Nicholas Serota, praised the donation saying it would help to make Tate Modern a “truly twenty-first-century museum”.
The first phase of the expansion involved the conversion of three large, circular, underground oil tanks originally used by the power station into accessible display spaces and facilities areas. These opened on 18 July 2012 and closed on 28 October 2012 as work on the tower building continued directly above. They reopened following the completion of the Switch House extension on 17 June 2016.
Two of the Tanks are used to show live performance art and installations while the third provides utility space. Tate describes them as “the world’s first museum galleries permanently dedicated to live art”.
A ten-storey tower, 65 metres high from ground level, was built above the oil tanks.
The original western half of the Switch House was demolished to make room for the tower and then rebuilt around it with large gallery spaces and access routes between the main building and the new tower on level 1 (ground level) and level 4. The new galleries on level 4 have natural top lighting. A bridge built across the turbine hall on level 4 to provides an upper access route.
The new building opened to the public on 17 June 2016.
The design, again by Herzog & de Meuron, has been controversial. It was originally designed with a glass stepped pyramid, but this was amended to incorporate a sloping façade in brick latticework (to match the original power-station building) despite planning consent to the original design having been previously granted by the supervising authority.
The extension provides 22,492 square metres of additional gross internal area for display and exhibition spaces, performance spaces, education facilities, offices, catering and retail facilities as well as a car parking and a new external public space.
In May 2017 the Switch House was formally renamed the Blavatnik Building, after Anglo-Ukrainian billionaire Sir Leonard Blavatnik, who contributed a “substantial” amount of the £260m cost of the extension. Sir Nicholas Serota commented “Len Blavatnik’s enthusiastic support ensured the successful realisation of the project and I am delighted that the new building now bears his name”.
The collections in Tate Modern consist of works of international modern and contemporary art dating from 1900 until today.
Levels 2, 3 and 4 contain gallery space. Each of those floors is split into a large east and west wing with at least 11 rooms in each. Space between these wings is also used for smaller galleries on levels 2 and 4. The Boiler House shows art from 1900 to the present day.
The Switch House has eleven floors, numbered 0 to 10. Levels 0, 2, 3 and 4 contain gallery space. Level 0 consists of the Tanks, spaces converted from the power station’s original fuel oil tanks, while all other levels are housed in the tower extension building constructed above them. The Switch House shows art from 1960 to the present day.
The Turbine Hall is a single large space running the whole length of the building between the Boiler House and the Switch House. At six stories tall it represents the full height of the original power station building. It is cut by bridges between the Boiler House and the Switch House on levels 1 and 4 but the space is otherwise undivided. The western end consists of a gentle ramp down from the entrance and provides access to both sides on level 0. The eastern end provides a very large space that can be used to show exceptionally large artworks due its unusual height.
The main collection displays consist of 8 areas with a named theme or subject. Within each area there are some rooms that change periodically showing different works in keeping with the overall theme or subject. The themes are changed less frequently. There is no admission charge for these areas.
The Turbine all:
The Turbine Hall, which once housed the electricity generators of the old power station, is five storeys tall with 3,400 square metres of floorspace. It is used to display large specially-commissioned works by contemporary artists, between October and March each year. This series was planned to last the gallery’s first five years, but the popularity of the series led to its extension until 2012.
Visit this vast, iconic space for large-scale sculpture and site-specific installation art
The Turbine Hall has hosted some of the world’s most memorable and acclaimed works of contemporary art. And the way artists have interpreted this vast industrial space has revolutionised public perceptions of contemporary art in the twenty-first century.
The Turbine Hall has a vast and dramatic entrance area with ramped access, as well as display space for large-scale sculptural projects and site-specific installation art. Running parallel to the Turbine Hall is the Boiler House, home to the galleries and various viewing pointings looking into the hall. On the opposite side of the building, the newly developed Blavatnik Building also houses galleries and dramatic architechtural features.
In thinking about what Tate Modern was going to do with this space, the idea of commissioning within it came quite late on… We realised [the Turbine Hall] was a hugely significant space; awe-inspiring in its scale, and to ask any artist to occupy that space, to perform within it, would be a momentous undertaking.
Two wings of the Boiler House are used to stage the major temporary exhibitions for which an entry fee is charged. These exhibitions normally run for three or four months. When they were located on a single floor, the two exhibition areas could be combined to host a single exhibition. This was done for the Gilbert and George retrospective due to the size and number of the works. Currently the two wings used are on level 3. It is not known if this arrangement is permanent. Each major exhibition has a dedicated mini-shop selling books and merchandise relevant to the exhibition.
Louise Bourgeois created the first Turbine Hall commission, I Do, I Undo, I Redo, which was exhibited from 12 May – 26 November 2000. Consisting of three steel towers – each some 9 metres (30 ft) high –visitors could climb the staircases to the platforms, which Bourgeois envisaged would become stages for intimate and revelatory encounters between strangers and friends alike. Maman – a monumental steel spider – was made for the opening of Tate Modern as part of this commission. The sculpture was installed on the bridge, overlooking the three tall steel towers.
A 2014 show of Henri Matisse provided Tate Modern with London’s best-attended charging exhibition, and with a record 562,622 visitors overall, helped by a nearly five-month-long run.
The Tanks provide a permanent gallery for live art, performances and a film and video work from the Tate collection. There is also a programme of new commissions of works made for the specific spaces.
The Tanks, located on level 0, are three large underground oil tanks, connecting spaces and side rooms originally used by the power station and refurbished for use by the gallery. One tank is used to display installation and video art specially commissioned for the space while smaller areas are used to show installation and video art from the collection.
The Tanks were previously used to store oil when the gallery was a power station. These huge circular spaces in the foundations of the Blavatnik Building have kept their rough, industrial feel to now house new art. No longer generating electricity, the Tanks generate ideas, creative energy and new possibilities for artists and audiences. These raw, industrial, subterranean spaces, each measuring over thirty metres across and seven metres high are the world’s first museum galleries permanently dedicated to exhibiting live art, performance, installation and film.
The Project Space (formerly known as the Level 2 Gallery) was a smaller gallery located on the north side of the Boiler House on level 1 which housed exhibitions of contemporary art in collaboration with other international art organisations. Its exhibitions typically ran for 2–3 months and then travelled to the collaborating institution for display there. The space was only accessible by leaving the building and re-entering using a dedicated entrance. It is no longer used as gallery space.
Works are also sometimes shown in the restaurants and members’ rooms. Other locations that have been used in the past include the mezzanine on Level 1 and the north facing exterior of the Boiler House building.
Behold awe-inspiring 360ᵒ views of the London skyline, from high above the River Thames
The top floor of the Blavatnik Building is an open viewing terrace. It boasts spectacular 360-degree views of the London Skyline. You can see the River Thames, St Paul’s Cathedral, and as far as Canary Wharf and Wembley Stadium. Access is free, however you might have to queue during busy times. Use the dedicated lift from Level 0.
Serving bespoke drinks as well as a delicious selection of cakes and pastries
Here you can enjoy a delicious range of craft beers, Tate Coffee, cocktails and a selection of Tate Made cakes and pastries.
Our Gin is a collaboration between Tate and Sacred Distillery in Highgate. The recipe changes twice yearly to reflect the best of traditional and contemporary botanicals, but always has the quintessential G&T in mind. Meanwhile Tate’s wine cellars have long been renowned for classic, affordable fine wines. Today, our wine philosophy is diverse. We still run a traditional wine cellar, yet all our house wine is now served via keg, allowing us to deliver better quality to you whilst being respectful of the environment. We also collaborate with brewers to produce bespoke beers that respond to the collection, specific works of art and exhibitions.
Discover a range of artist books and specially selected products including designer collaborations, jewellery and prints
Eat and drink while enjoying panoramic views of London’s skyline
Take your pick from our à la carte menu, celebrating seasonal British cuisine with wines from Tate’s award-winning cellars.
Admission to Tate Modern is free, except for special exhibitions. Visitors with a disability pay a concessionary rate, and carers’ entrance is free. Under 12s go free (up to four per parent or guardian) and family tickets are available (two adults and two children 12–18 years).