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2000: Sneak preview of new Tate Modern

The Tate Modern art gallery in London has opened its doors to the world's media ahead of the official opening by the Queen on May 11.

The world's largest modern art gallery is housed in a conversion of the former power station on Bankside which cost £134m and took four years to reconstruct.


"For the first time, people will be able to see most of the Tate's 20th Century art collection. Before only a fragment of it could be displayed"

Lars Nittve, Tate Modern Director

The new museum will have enough space to display works long hidden from public view due to lack of space - international modern art from 1900 to the present day by the artists such as Dalí, Picasso, Matisse, Rothko and Warhol as well as contemporary work by Dorothy Cross, Gilbert & George and Susan Hiller.

The existing Tate Gallery further down the River Thames at Millbank has been renamed Tate Britain.

The BBC Arts correspondent, Rosie Millard, visited the gallery and described it as vast, with a cathedral-like quality which has earned it the nickname Cathedral of Cool.

Three giant towers loom up inside the former power station's 115ft-high turbine hall - retaining all the atmosphere of its industrial heritage.

From the former turbine hall visitors are swept up by escalator to some 84 galleries on three levels. The exhibits are illuminated by natural light from a translucent roof.

The Tate Modern is defying the traditional way of displaying art - it is not exhibited in chronological order or within the context of particular historical movements, but by themes such as landscapes or still life.

The aim, say the Tate Modern's curators, is to challenge people and make them look at art in a different way.

Director Lars Nittve believes all the effort has been worthwhile. "This gallery is unique in the world," he said. "For the first time, people will be able to see most of the Tate's 20th Century art collection. Before only a fragment of it could be displayed."

But art critic and broadcaster David Lee was not entirely impressed. "We need the Tate Modern and this is something we can build on, but I was a bit disappointed by the minimalism and austerity of it all."

In Context
The Tate Modern, which also has branches in Liverpool and St Ives, Cornwall, has turned out to be a great success.

A year after it was officially opened by the Queen on 11 May 2000, some five million visitors had poured through its doors.

The two Swiss architects behind the conversion of Tate Modern from a power station, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, went on to win the prestigious Pritzker prize.

Spanish museum boss Vicente Todoli took over as the gallery's director in May 2002 after Lars Nittve decided to return to his native Sweden.


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