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Enjoy Radical Ingenuity at London's Tate Modern Museum

Published by Bill Lehane, Writer

Country: United Kingdom

The Experience

London is a long-standing magnet for talented artists from around Europe and further afield; and the city's Tate Modern is consistently voted among the continent's top modern art galleries. Innovatively housed in the former Bankside Power Station, located along the River Thames' South Bank district, the Tate Modern provides a cavernous, dynamic space for international modern and contemporary exhibitions. The Tate Modern is ideally placed for anyone staying in the old town district (known as the City of London area) where you'll find St Paul's Cathedral, the London Eye and London Bridge. Just take a stroll across the Millennium Bridge and see some great art.

Aside from the art, the best draw of all to the Tate Modern is the free admission (apart from some major temporary exhibitions). From Bacon to Dali, Duchamps to Kandinsky, Matisse to Rothko, and Tanguy to Zalensky, the museum has works in its permanent collection from virtually all the greats of the last 100 years. In particular, the Tate Modern has several masterpieces by Picasso and Matisse, as well as one of the world's best collections of Surrealist art, including works by Dali and Magritte. Pollock and Rothko are represented in the gallery's collection of Abstract Expressionist art, while most of Pop Art's best creators (including Andy Warhol) are also well represented.

The Tate Modern's permanent collection is displayed in four wings on levels three to five of the museum. Each wing has a central hub based around one of four major themes: Surrealism; Minimalism; Post-War Innovations; and the three linked movements of Cubism, Futurism and Vorticism. If this sounds like a mouthful, there are special audio guides available for both children and adults, with contributions from artists and critics. Furthermore, the gallery's entire collection is catalogued online, and there's also a special multimedia tour available at the Tate Modern website for you to preview your entire visit before you go.

The best tactic for the Modern Art newbie is to approach each artwork with your own perspective while giving consideration to what the artist was trying to achieve. Each piece comes with its own description either on the wall or in a gallery handout. Moreover, given that there's so much on display, don't feel any pressure to see every single piece of artwork. Just wander around and see what catches your eye. Chances are you'll come across something interesting at the very least, and maybe you'll find something that will leave you thinking you've seen a truly remarkable creation.

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When to Go to Tate Modern

The best time of year to visit the Tate Modern is in the off-season between September to May, as you can enjoy everything the gallery has to offer in any weather conditions. Just bring clothes in which to stay warm and dry for the trek over the River Thames!

As a major international hub, you can fly to London from pretty much anywhere in the world. However with five airports, transport options into the city centre can vary considerably. Two of the airports are on the city's metro system: the London Underground; while four are serviced by mainline trains. The Tate Modern itself is within 15 minutes walk or less from four different subway lines, and six bus lines. If you're combining a visit with a trip to Tate Modern's sister gallery, Tate Britain, you can also take a 40-minute ride between the two on the Tate Boat.

Tate Modern is open 362 days a year, but closes from December 24-26. It's open until 6 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Odds n' Ends

The family zone on level three offers special activities for children and families at weekends, with sketch books and fun art books. There's also a special family trail that leads kids to discover hidden areas and strange facts about Tate Modern. A special multimedia guide for levels three and five takes kids on an interactive tour with music, video clips and games showcasing the more family-friendly art work at Tate Modern. This guide is available daily from the information desks for around US$5.75 per person. A free meal is on offer at the Tate Modern Restaurant (level seven) or Tate Modern Café 2 (level two) for children under 12 eating with an accompanying adult (ordering a main course and dessert).

The Tate Modern also offers an innovative online resource called i-Map that enables visually impaired people to access a group of works in animation, raised image and audio formats.

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