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The Expanded Tate Modern Opens Its Doors Friday

The museum is being called the UK’s most important new cultural building since the British Library

An illustration of the Tate Modern's new Switch House expansion. (Hayes Davidson and Herzog & de Meuron)
smithsonian.com

The Tate Modern's new extension opens to the public on Friday. Not only will the beefed-up museum unveil a fancy new pyramidal tower attached to its side, but it will also feature a variety of new works by women as well as more international artists coming from outside western Europe and the United States.

Since the Tate Modern first opened in 2000, it has become one of London’s most popular and bold art museums. Approximately 5 million people pass through the Tate Modern annually, according to museum officials, a steep jump from the 2 million that Tate Modern's director, Nicholas Serota, originally hoped for, Mark Brown reports for the Guardian.

“Today we open not just an extension but genuinely a new Tate Modern with a new configuration, new facilities, new learning spaces and a new view of the world as it has been over the last 120 years or so,” Serota said at the unveiling of the new building earlier this week, Brown writes.

The Tate Modern’s new addition, known as the “Switch House,” is a 10-story-tall pyramidal tower designed by architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, who were responsible for the renovation and design of the original museum. The Switch House adds a significant amount of gallery space to the museum, allowing for 60 percent more of the Tate Modern’s collection to be on display at any given time, Tim Masters reports for the BBC. For visitors hoping to get a look at the city as well as the art, the tower also features panoramic views of London.

"A building that was once London's beating heart is now its cultural cathedral," Tate chairman Lord John Browne said at the unveiling, as Masters reports.

Despite the museum’s standing as one of London's essential cultural centers, even its own officials acknowledged the previous holes in its coverage.

"As we have been building the new Tate Modern, the curators...have been building the collection,"  Frances Morris, the Tate Modern’s new director, tells Masters. "You will find more international art, more art by women and great new installations."

The new displays, however, are not without their own controversy. While some artists and luminaries gathered inside the Tate Modern earlier this week for a first look at the new expansion, a group gathered outside to protest the museum's decision to include artworks by the avant-garde sculptor Carl Andre, but nothing by his artist wife Ana Mendieta, Isabella Smith writes for Hyperallergic.

When the museum opens its doors on Friday, fans of Tate Modern’s original collection will still be able to find their favorite pieces on display—the work just might have been redistributed throughout the space to better integrate the new works by artists like Ai Wei Wei, Hélio Oiticica, and Sheela Gowda.

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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