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What started in 1897 as a single gallery of 65 paintings devoted solely to British art, has grown and diversified over the last century, providing an essential supplement to the collections of the National Gallery.
The Tate now comprises nearly 70,000 works, spread across four separate museums: Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives. Tate Modern provides London with a major collection of international modern and contemporary works. 2016 will see the unveiling of an iconic new building to the south of the existing gallery, which will provide more space for showing the collection, performance and installation art.
Since it opened in 2000, Tate Modern has established itself as the most-visited art gallery in the world. Displaying a comprehensive collection of modern international art since 1900, its treasures include one of the finest museum collections of Surrealism, with works by Dalí, Magritte and Miró. Early modernist movements are represented by Picasso, Mondrian and Matisse. There is Pop Art by Warhol and Lichtenstein and Abstract Expressionist works by Pollock and Rothko. Minimalism and Conceptual art are also well represented, with iconic works by Carl Andre, Donald Judd and Joseph Beuys. The recent acquisition of the Artist Rooms collection (shared with the National Galleries of Scotland) has dramatically enriched the holdings of contemporary art.
Watch BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz and British artist Cornelia Parker discuss Roy Lichtenstein's Wall Explosion in connection with Parker's own work Cold Dark Matter.
Art Funded works
Anselm Kiefer's Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom is a giant image of Chairman Mao ensnared in a dense thicket of dead stems and dried roses, his arm raised in characteristic salutation. The ambiguous image can be read in many ways, and especially as a commentary on the authoritarian nature of Chinese politics.
Matisse's Portrait of Andre Derain is one of his early works. It dates from 1905, when the artists spent some months painting together in the French port of Collioure. The portrait's intense and emotional colour is characteristic of the Fauve style, which evolved out of their artistic experiments that summer.
If you plan to visit both the London Tate galleries, it is well worth taking advantage of the Tate Boat that travels between Tate Britain and Tate Modern every 40 minutes during opening hours, offering comprehensive views of the river that has inspired so much British art.
While each of the Tate's galleries offers its own café facilities, the restaurant at Tate Modern deserves special mention. Set up on the top floor, the glass-fronted dining room offers seasonal British food at both lunch and dinner, accompanied by possibly the best view in London.