A First Look At The New Tate Modern

New Tate Modern ★★★★★

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 96 months ago

Last Updated 14 June 2016

A First Look At The New Tate Modern New Tate Modern 5
Old favourites like this Lichtenstein are still here, but with lots of new additions.

Any recent visitors to the Tate Modern will have seen it looking like a building site. Nope, that wasn't conceptual art — it was all part of the plan to expand their exhibition space by 60%, with the addition of a new connected building called the Switch House.

The new gallery opens to the public on Friday, but here's a sneak peek.

This tree by Ai Weiwei takes a prominent position on the bridge connecting the two buildings.

It's important to note that the permanent collection has been re-hung across both buildings, the original boiler house (the Tate Modern we're all familiar with) and the new Switch House.

The first thing we notice is how much more spaced out things feel, with works given lots of room to really stand out — much better than the crowded hang that used to be in the former gallery.

Performance plays a major role in the new Tate layout.

It's also a diverse collection. We have familiar names like Picasso, Duchamp, Mondrian and Lichtenstein. But there are also artists we'd never heard of, an even spread between male and female artists, artists from non-Western countries, and a great mix of painting, sculpture, performance and video art.

Done poorly this could have felt like tokenism but it doesn't. It feels fresh, different and challenging. No two rooms feel the same and this makes it all the more engaging.

Hop aboard, visitors are invited to climb into these caged beds. It's just one of many interactive works in the new hang.

At the launch of the new Tate Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan remarked on how representative the collection is of female artists, who are represented in half of the solo displays, saying "The new Tate Modern is the envy of the world... and leading the world."

Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, added: "It will transform how contemporary art will be viewed."

There are plenty of rooms dedicated to solo artists and this means the works have higher impact, as you can focus solely on the work of one artist. It's great to see a Louise Bourgeois spider sculpture surrounded by the artist's other sculptures and drawings, so we have the context of her entire portfolio of work.

A spider sculpture by Louise Bourgeois takes centre stage in a room dedicated to her works.

There is plenty of interactive art too, including beds to climb into, blocks to rearrange into any structure you wish, while Rudolf Stingel has covered an entire wall with orange carpet, which anyone is free to trace their own patterns into using their fingers.

We could go on about how great the new Tate Modern is but we'll leave you to explore the works of 300 artists from 50 countries, when it opens to the public.

Even though the Tate Modern is the most visited contemporary art gallery in the world, in our minds it always felt like it was not quite on par with the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. With this new addition to the Tate, we can safely say London now has the world's best contemporary art museum.

The views from the observation area on level 10 are pretty special too.

The New Tate Modern opens to the public on 17 June with a special three day celebration. The permanent collections are free to the public.