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The BBC's David Sillito
"Tate Modern's opening party was the hottest ticket in town"
 real 28k

Friday, 12 May, 2000, 02:35 GMT 03:35 UK
Glittering start for Tate Modern
Tate Modern laser show
A spectacular light show illuminated the landmark
Pop stars, politicians and notables from the art world have helped launch London's new landmark art gallery in style.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and John Lennon's widow Yoko Ono were among the 4,000 guests who streamed into the 134m Tate Modern on Thursday evening for a high profile opening party.

Earlier in the day, the former power station on London's South Bank had gained a royal seal of approval, when the Queen declared it officially open.

Many visitors allowed to preview the new gallery have been in awe of it proportions and lavished it with praise. It is a far cry from the controversy surrounding the troubled Millennium Dome.

Mr Blair, one of the first guests to arrive, was given a private view of the renowned collection by Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota.

Pet Shop Boys singer Neil Tennant, a former Turner Prize judge, said he had been given a sneak preview two weeks before, but had to leave because the fire alarm went off.

"But I think it's wonderful. It's an amazing space," he said.

Former art student turned pop star Jarvis Cocker, who recently helped judge the Becks Futures Awards arts prize, was more reserved with his praise.

He said: "I think it seems alright. It's a good idea in theory."

Star-studded evening

Other guests at the gallery dubbed the 'Cathedral of Cool' included ex-Formula One champion Damon Hill, artists Gilbert and George, Turner Prize winner Steve McQueen and Sir Anthony Caro, who designed the nearby Millennium Bridge.

From the fashion world came Alexander McQueen and Zandra Rhodes, with her traditional shocking pink hair and hard to miss outfit.
Controversial artist Tracey Emin approves

The exterior of the building was lit with lasers and lights, while a permanent beacon illuminated the gallery's striking chimney.

Security was tight for the opening night, for which invitations were supposedly changing hands for up to 1,000 a time.

Royal seal

The Queen's visit had been shrouded in security amid reports that anarchists who took part in the May Day riots were threatening to target her.

She viewed exhibits and met artists, staff and benefactors at the gallery.

The Queen opens Tate Modern

Tate Modern will introduce the public - who get their first look on Friday - to many works which have been in storage for years due to lack of exhibition space at the Tate in Millbank. Thanks to a government subsidy, entry will now be free of charge.

At the end of 1992 trustees of the Tate decided to split the collection in two. British works stayed at the gallery in London's Millbank, now known as Tate Britain, and international pieces moved to Tate Modern.

Giant spider

Earlier this week Culture Secretary Chris Smith visited the building and said: "The development of Tate Modern will stand out very much as the jewel in the crown of a very precious moment of advance for the cultural life of London and the nation."

Louise Bourgeois's spider sculpture
Louise Bourgeois's spider sculpture

The converted building, designed by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, is set to rival Bilbao's Guggenheim, New York's Museum of Modern Art and Paris's Pompidou Centre.

It features classic international works from the past century including pieces by Warhol, Lichtenstein and Pollock.

Notables include one of Yves Klein's famous blue panels, Dali's Lobster Telephone, Picasso's Nude Woman With Necklace, The Snail by Matisse and Andre's notorious strip of bricks Equivalent VIII.

Salvador Dali's Lobster Telephone
Dali's Lobster Telephone
The centrepiece of the building itself is the colossal grey-painted Turbine Hall which at 500ft runs almost the gallery's entire length.

It will house specially commissioned displays, the first by 89-year-old artist Louise Bourgeois, who has created three 30ft towers and a giant spider which stares down at visitors.

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