The Tate Modern Gets a Major Makeover

The iconic new museum expansion on London's South Bank finally opens to the public this week. Get an inside look at the new look Tate Modern.

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With a list of accomplishments that includes Beijing's Bird's Nest stadium, created for the 2008 Olympics, Prada's Tokyo flagship, and scores of museums—Miami's Pérez Art Museum and San Francisco's de Young, among them—duo Herzog & de Meuron are a powerhouse architecture firm, by anyone's standards. Now, they're adding a new landmark to their resumes: the expansion of Tate Modern on London's South Bank.

Inside the Switch House. © Iwan Baan
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With the new building, the museum—housed in a 1950s-era power station which the architects originally transformed in 2000—gains 60 percent more space. The unmistakable brick façade, which twists up 10 stories, finally opens this Friday and is yet another step forward in the ongoing expansion of London's Bankside neighborhood.

Here are 15 of the most amazing things about new Tate Modern.

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  1. The work of over 300 artists will be on display across the existing and new galleries. The new program expands on the Tate's best-known works, including those by Matisse, Picasso, and Lichtenstein, with new acquisitions from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

  2. One highlight of this new focus is Ai Weiwei's almost 23-foot-tall tree sculpture that will be on view in the Turbine Hall, the cavernous and iconic space which connects the existing Boiler House to the new Switch House galleries.
  3. 75% of what's on display from the collection has been acquired in the 16 years since the Tate Modern opened in 2000
A detail of the inspired brickwork of the new Tate Modern expansion. © Iwan Baan

4. Herzog & de Meuron, the distinguished architectural duo who masterminded the initial reimagining of the Bankside Power Station, are also behind the building's expansion. Inspired by the brickwork of the original structure, they created a unique façade clad in 336,000 bricks. The expansion cost over $400 million.

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5. In a complete redesign of how and where the artwork is hung, Tate has organized work spanning 1900 to the present in its original six-floor Boiler House and works since the 1960s in the new Switch House. Key works include Carl Andre's "Equivalent VIII" (a rectangle of bricks that was quite a controversial purchase for the museum in the '70s), and Roni Horn's four-ton cube of pink glass.

6. Those looking to get informed on the essentials of modern and contemporary art should visit the new Start Gallery, a capsule collection for first-time visitors.

7. The museum's first visitors will be 3,000 school children from across the U.K., welcomed in a special visit before the official opening.

8. A new space called The Tanks, which occupies two cylindrical halls underground, is the first-ever in a museum to be dedicated to live art. To kick off programming, Tate has commissioned two performances for opening weekend: a new chapter in Tarek Atoui's ongoing "The Reverse Collection," performed on 10 specially designed instruments, and Alexandra Pirici and Manuel Pelmuş's "Public Collection Tate Modern," in which five dancers recreate familiar works of art in a series of poses.

9. To celebrate the new live art program, Solange Knowles has created a dance video inspired by the museum's collection, which she teased on her Instagram.

10. Another new program called Tate Exchange, which occupies an entire floor, is dedicated to open experiments between the museum and the public, or the museum and other organizations. Beginning in September, British artist Tim Etchells will take over the space to create programming with such organizations as feminist art group Guerilla Girls.

11. The new building features a panoramic terrace that boasts 360-degree views of London.

12. New museum director Frances Morris aims to focus museum programming on work by female artists. One example of this is on level four, where the display is dominated with sculptures by Louise Bourgeois.

13. Tate has collaborated with Icelandic band Sigur Rós on a film set to a specially composed track that viewers can control in an interactive video. View "States of Matter" at tate.org.uk

14. Experimental artist Peter Liversidge has create a new, commissioned choral work for the opening. 500 singers from around London will perform the unaccompanied work, which was written from Liversidge's conversations with gallery staff, museum construction workers, and local residents.

15. The museum will be open until 10 p.m. every night this weekend to celebrate the opening!

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