Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Great Tate

On one of my favorite days in London, we took the Tube to St. Paul's, crossed the Thames on the Millennium Bridge and spent the afternoon at the Tate Modern.

The dome of St. Paul's, modeled after St. Peter's in Rome, is one of the highest in the world. 

St. Paul's is a marvel. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the 17th century, the classical cathedral stands 365 feet high and sits on the highest point in London. It stood as the tallest structure in the city until 1962. Even against today's skyline, the dome dominates.

St. Paul's has been the site of peace services following both World Wars, the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill and the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.

Crossing The Millennium Bridge is an event in itself. A footbridge built to link the Tate Modern with St. Paul's, the  first in central London in over a century, the 325-metre "blade-like" structure dramatically frames St. Paul's and offers extraordinary views of London. It's the perfect entry way to the national gallery of International Modern Art.

The Millennium Bridge 

The London Skyline from the bridge

There was no Tate Modern on my last visit to London. The Bankside Power Station was transformed to house the collection in 2000. The former Turbine Hall runs the length of the building and creates an amazing cathedral-like gallery entrance.

A sea of of porcelain sunflower seeds floods the Turbine Hall.

Today, when you look down at the hall from the Turbine Hall bridge, you see what appears to be millions small pebbles or rocks that span the length of the hall. Look closer, and you can identify them as sunflower seeds--but they are actually porcelain reproductions of sunflower seeds, each hand-crafted and unique. Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds, on view until May 2011, includes 100 million seeds and poses questions about what it means to be an individual in today's society. 

The Tate Modern's permanent collection spans international art from 1900 to the present and includes important works from Picasso and Matisse, an impressive collection of Surrealist and American Expressionist Abstract art, as well as contemporary works.


What makes the museum so engaging is the way the works are displayed. Instead of grouped strictly by year or by artist, four wings are focused around "hubs," each concentrating on a key period in the development of twentieth century art.

Andy Warhol 

At the heart of these hubs are artists who "anticipated, challenged or responded to these four major movements." As you move away from the hubs the art shifts to works that "reflect the ongoing dialogue between past and present and suggest contemporary perspectives for approaching and reassessing the past."

Jackson Pollock

So you can see how the artists created dialogs with each other, and how the art of today is informed by the past.

Cy Twombly

You can almost hear the conversations between the works as you wander the galleries.

Meredith Frampton

Of course, all that wandering makes you hungry. Fortunately, the Tate Modern boasts a terrific restaurant. The food is almost on par with the views.

 Views from the Tate Modern's restaurant

Some pumpkin soup.

A little cheese.

Lots of art.

Alberto Giacometti 

 A perfect day.


  1. I'm SO JEALOUS!! Looks like it was a great trip. Can't wait to hear about it.

  2. Thanks Ted! Saw the Whole Foods as we drove to our hotel the first morning -tried to snap a photo, but its not very good. I'll show you when I see you next week...



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