VISITING THE TATE MODERN, LONDON

The Tate Modern is the largest, best known and most visited of the UK's modern art museums. Located in a former power station in the Southwark area of London it is filled with modern art of all genres and styles. It is often promoted as essential viewing for any visitor to the capital city, so here we answer all your questions including the critical one - is it worth visiting?

The Tate Modern
The Tate Modern seen from St Paul's Cathedral

The Tate Modern has skillfully acquired some of the most famous modern art collections in the world as well as holding regular innovative exhibitions which attract people from across the globe. It is the third most visited modern art museum in the world and within the UK it is even eclipsing visitors to the British Museum.


Where is the Tate Modern?

The Tate Modern is right on the south bank of the River Thames, right next to The Globe Theatre. Directly opposite on the north bank is St. Paul's Cathedral - you can use the Millennium Bridge to cross the Thames between the two.


The museum is housed inside the old Bankside Power Station which was designed by Gilbert Scott, built in 1947 and closed in 1981. It is a vast, cavernous place; all wide open halls, angular concrete blocks and seemingly endless floors.

TWO PEOPLE WALKING THROUGH A CONCRETE HALL
Inside the Tate Modern

How much does it cost to visit the Tate Modern?

Like many of London's museums, it is free to visit, you only have to buy tickets for the special exhibitions. You can book your timed visiting slot in advance on their website, or just show up and hope they have spaces.


What is there to see at the Tate Modern?

The special exhibitions change regularly, but there is a core collection of art which permanently resides at the museum. Exhibitors include Picasso, Warhol, Dali and Pollock.


Is the Tate Modern good for kids?

Kids painting the floor at the Tate
Kids painting the floor at the Tate

Kids are welcome at the museum - all of the galleries are pushchair friendly and there are often kids activities on offer. That being said, although there may be activities on offer for young children, there is less available for older ones. The Tate website promotes activities such as 'making shadow puppets' or 'dancing', so essentially stuff children can do anywhere.


Older children will be less entranced by the assorted colours and shapes on display. My 14 year old son loathed the place and said it made him feel angry. The echoing halls, lack of windows, confusing layout and discordant, meaningless artwork did nothing for him; it just left him feeling unsettled and desperate to leave.


Is the Tate Modern worth visiting?

Obviously this is a matter of personal taste, but I would suggest that you need to be really into modern art to find it an enjoyable experience. There are some pieces where you can think that the artist is clearly talented, but much of it is utterly meaningless unless you read the artist's explanation of what they were trying to convey. These explanations, which are displayed near the pieces, are often little more than pretentious waffle, leaving you disconcerted and unsatisfied.


The following are some of the many negative reviews from Trip Advisor :


It was a mix of with middle class children with daft names, people who need to open their eyes when they get dressed in the morning, foreign tourists and people trying so hard to be trendy, edgy and arty. As for the art ??? I am not being funny but most of it reminded me of many a lost night at parents evenings and school open days.

"I became angry that some of this is actually art"


"The building itself had all the warmth of your local morgue and art if you could call it that presented coldly, with grey lighting, cold in every aspect"


"It was free to get in and I wanted a refund on the way out"

A boy on a bench looking at a painting in a gallery
My son found the only 'traditional' painting in the whole museum, and sat in front of that - it was the only thing he actually wanted to look at, just to give his eyes a rest

I do enjoy art and even studied it at university, but like the negative reviewers above, I found it a waste of time. Much of it was just stuff; newspaper clippings, photos, random items on a work bench, Venetian blinds hanging from a ceiling, that I struggled to see where the skill was. It seemed that much of the perceived value in these objects was in their explanation rather than the object itself, yet anyone can write pretentious waffle, so why was it worthy of a spot in the museum? A room filled with air conditioning units had the title:


(Unbounded [sic]-Vibrational [sic] Always [sic]-on-the-move [sic] Praising Flesh (An_Extra aSubjective p,n,e,u,m,a-mode of Being T,o,g,e,t,h,e,r)' 2019


No, that isn't a sentence of typos, that really is what the art was called. Like my son, the whole thing left me feeling irritated, annoyed and keen to leave.


How long does it take to walk around the Tate Modern?

Again this can vary considerably, but you do need to be really into modern art to spend longer than a couple of hours. The building is very large and difficult to get around, particularly with their pandemic one way system, and large parts of it seem to be closed off.


Our visit lasted less than an hour but would have been shorter if we could have found the exit sooner.

(Trip Advisor review)


Museum fatigue kicks in quickly here - there is limited daylight, few places to sit and rest, lots of bright white walls and lights, an excess of signage barking orders at you and the noise of the crowds carries far in the huge open halls. The café was overpriced and had limited seating.


A visit to the Tate Modern is not the most pleasant of experiences - it is overwhelming, baffling and tiring.

People looking upwards at blinds hanging from a ceiling

Which is better - Tate Modern or Tate Britain?

Tate Britain in Westminster has a mixture of traditional art and modern art, so you actually get the best of both worlds. I also preferred the modern art in the Tate Britain as it had more of a dramatic visual impact - lots of lights, colours and sounds which meant that it was at least entertaining, even if the interpretations didn't endear themselves to me.


If you are trying to chose between the two, definitely chose the Tate Britain.


What is there to do near the Tate Modern?

Just a two minute walk away is the ancient Ferryman's Seat. The Millennium Bridge is less than a minute away and is worth a stroll for the views. The Clink Prison Museum is small but fun and will provide great relief for kids after a challenging visit to the Tate. The Golden Hinde is just beyond The Clink. The Globe next door does wonderful tours.


Waterloo Station is a ten minute walk away.