A new wing at Tate Modern, more space for underrepresented artists

London’s Tate Modern has become the most visited modern art museum in the world since its grand opening in 2000, drawing 5 million visitors a year. Renowned for its innovative architecture and use of interior spaces, Tate Modern is putting the finishing touches on a new wing that doubles as a work of art on its own. Jeffrey Brown reports.

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    Finally tonight: a room with a view, a very large view of modern art. And it just got even bigger.

    Jeffrey Brown has our report from London.


    Then Her Majesty saw the adjoining Bankside Power Station, which supplies the city and a large area of North London.


    London, 1962, Queen Elizabeth II visits the Bankside Power Station on the south bank of the River Thames.

    Fifty-four years later, the queen just celebrated her 90th birthday. And the former power station, now better known as Tate Modern, is celebrating its remarkable transformation into the world's most visited modern art museum, with the opening of a new 10-story extension.

    London Mayor Sadiq Khan spoke at the press conference.


    The Tate Modern is such a success story. You have continually found new ways of supporting artists and reaching new audiences.


    Afterward, I talked to Nicholas Serota, the man who helped conceive Tate Modern and has overseen it since it opened in 2000.

    NICHOLAS SEROTA, Director, Tate Art Museums and Galleries: I think that maybe we helped to open up the idea of what a museum could be, that the experience of visiting a museum should be a learning experience. It should be a personal aesthetic experience ,but it should also be a social experience.


    A social experience in a free public space. Tate Modern quickly made itself a game-changer for contemporary art in Britain and beyond.


    It meant a place where you could literally hang out and meet people and have conversations and debates and discussions and seminars and listen to lectures and genuinely engage with the issues that artists raise.


    Works by modern masters, from Picasso to Warhol, were part of the draw. But even more was the way the repurposed power station had been turned into large inviting gallery spaces, most of all the 35,000 square foot Turbine Hall, the largest gallery anyone had ever seen.

    It became the site of enormous exhibitions by leading international artists, including Anish Kapoor's Marsyas in 2002, Olafur Eliasson's Weather Project in 2004, Ai Weiwei's Sunflowers in 2010, and others that became happenings for locals and tourists alike. A museum that had expected to draw around two million visitors a year instead attracted more than five.

    Financial Times architecture critic Edwin Heathcote:

  • EDWIN HEATHCOTE, Financial Times:

    Turbine Hall is the best new public space in an interior, I think, possibly in the world. We're used to interiors now malls, huge hotel lobbies, airports. So, actually, here, we have a space of culture, a genuinely public space, which is an indoor plaza.

  • JACQUES HERZOG, Architect:

    We hoped for that. But we couldn't know, because never before a museum had such a space. And sometimes it's a small gap between something great and something that is a failure.


    The original design was by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, then little-known, now major figures with buildings around the world.

    And it was they who were given the rare opportunity to come back 16 years later to finish the job by creating a new wing, this time facing a problem partially of their own making, for Tate Modern, along with the recreation of Shakespeare's Globe Theater, had helped transform the Bankside area of London into a bustling, highly desirable neighborhood of apartment and office buildings.

    How do you make a building that stands out, when there's so much around it now?


    First, we had glass, obvious choice for a new museum, but everything is glass today, and especially in the neighborhood. So going back to brick, but make this kind of special lattice, which is the perforated brick walls, which brings light in and out, so it almost breathes, was a good decision, I think. So, it's closer to the original building, but nevertheless different.


    The result, called the Switch House, is a kind of twisted pyramid, and its effect is subtle, not showy.


    Sometimes, you try to be bigger, bigger, bigger and more, more flashy and iconic. You can't do this endlessly. It's ridiculous. And, sometimes, you have to think of what architecture can do for people, which is not being bigger, bigger, bigger, but really for the people and have a central quality also through its physicality.


    Inside are angled walls and galleries of concrete and wood, offering curators 60 percent more exhibition space for art of all kinds, including video, installations, and live performance.

    On opening day, this group recreated famous works of art, here Matisse's Dance.

    Tate Modern director Frances Morris says past gaps will be addressed, one in particular.

  • FRANCES MORRIS, Director, Tate Modern:

    The lack of attention to the great work made across the world by women now. They're poorly represented in the marketplace. They're poorly represented in exhibition program at institutions in the U.K. and the United States.

    So, we're trying to short-circuit that by creating a sense of visibility and, frankly, celebration for some of those great voices in art.


    Another feature of the new building will no doubt make for one of London's best new public spaces, the 10th floor, 360-degree view of the city.

    Early reviews in London's famously critical newspapers were good. Now the public, many marching over the Millennium Bridge toward the museum, will have its say.

    From London, I'm Jeffrey Brown for the "PBS NewsHour."

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