Tate Modern’s new extension dazzles critics

Tate Modern’s new ‘Switch House’ extension to its South Bank site has dazzled critics ahead of its public opening on Friday (17 June).

Designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the architects responsible for developing the Bankside Power Station into Tate Modern in 2000, the 10-storey pyramid-like tower forms part of a £260 million transformation of the museum. It was made possible by donations from private donors, foundations, Southwark Council, the Greater London Authority and the government in what has been described as “one of the largest cultural fundraising campaigns ever launched”. 

In the lead up to its public launch, the new Tate Modern has garnered praise from critics as a “bold, beautiful and a bountiful public resource”. The Switch House building itself has been lauded as as much a player as the art”. Other commentators have found some of the gallery’s curatorial choices more challenging but nonetheless conclude that if the exploratory nature of the new Tate makes it a bit of mess, it is one… hell of an interesting one”. 

Plans for the revamp were originally approved in 2007 with the aim of accommodating ever-growing visitor numbers. Designed for two million visitors, the site had begun to attract five million each year. With three new galleries, a restaurant and a 360-degree outdoor viewing gallery at its apex, the Switch House will enable 60% more artworks from Tate’s collections to be displayed.

The relaunch will also see a complete rehang of the Tate Modern’s artworks and the installation of a huge tree sculpture by Ai Weiwei in the Turbine Hall. Highlights on display in the Switch House will include David Medalla’s bubble fountains as part of an exploration into the “active” art of the 1960s. Beneath the Switch House, the original power station’s subterranean oil tanks, which were first used as performance spaces during the 2012 Olympics will play host to live performances, interactive art and video installations on a permanent basis.

The opening of the new Tate Modern will be celebrated over three days (17-19 June) this weekend with interactive activities, installations and a unique choral work performed by over 500 singers in the Turbine Hall and in the Switch House.


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