A trip to see the Tate Modern’s new extension before it opened to the public. Ideas of a relaxed lunch round the corner before strolling round the new galleries went out of the window when arrived at Bankside to find queues out of the restaurant doors, and a longer queue out of the Tate Modern itself. It didn’t take long to get in, in the end, and the whole event was pretty well organised. Some first impressions:

  • It’s a lot bigger than I expected – a near-doubling in size, or so it feels, rather than a bit added on to the end as I’d assumed it to be. The preview was a bit like going round a show home; much more about checking out the new building (and views!) than the art.
  • I need to go back and look at the galleries properly. With the proviso above that we weren’t really looking at it properly, the art on display didn’t by and large shout ‘world class collection’; there really didn’t seem to be much painting, in particular.
  • Having said that, it was great to a room full of Sirkka-Liisa Kontinnen’s Byker prints. Apart from anything else, this is a hopeful sign that we might get more photography featured in the Tate Modern in future.
  • The views really are fantastic, apart from the south-west corner where the new towers popping up really get in the way.
  • The extension connects the whole building up with the southern approach much better than before; arriving from Southwark tube you’re no longer greeted with the relatively blank back of the building.
  • It was good to get a look in the oil tanks area. These seemed to open in a big fanfare a while back, then barely got mentioned, and never seemed to be open when I was visiting.
  • Queuing for the lifts is going to be an even bigger of the new Tate Modern experience as the old, for most people.

I recommend Peter Watts’s much more detailed write-up, with interesting context on how the Tate came to take on Bankside  (and not Battersea) power station.