Getting to know: Tate Modern

Find out more about the five Art Fund Museum of the Year finalists for 2017. Today, Tate Modern talks about its recent expansion, incredible exhibitions and changing people's relationship with modern art.


We know it's rude to ask, but how old are you?

I’ve just turned 17. That’s pretty young for a museum, which means I can still get away with breaking the rules!

If we were to ask you to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

International, open and ever-changing.

Art Fund Museum of the Year finalists come in all shapes and sizes and from far and wide. Tell us something interesting about where you live.

I am based in a former power station on the south side of the River Thames, which was converted into the national gallery of modern art in 2000 and then extended in 2016 with a major new building designed by Herzog & de Meuron. The building project also opened up the museum to the city around me, creating new public spaces and facilities for the local community.

In a very exciting year for you, what has been the highlight (apart from being shortlisted, of course)?

It’s been a very busy year. I gained 60% more space for showing art, and this inspired me to completely rethink the way I present my collections. The art on show is now more international, includes a greater variety of different media, and represents more women artists. If I had to pick one moment as my highlight, it would be the day before I reopened to the public, when I invited thousands of school children from around the country to be my first new visitors.

What is your most treasured possession?

There are some much-loved masterpieces in my collection, like Mark Rothko’s Seagram murals and Louise Bourgeois’ great spider Maman, but art is always changing and I try to introduce new things to my visitors all the time. The very latest work to go on display is Janet Cardiff’s Forty Part Motet, a circle of 40 speakers each playing the sound an individual singer from the Salzburg Cathedral Choir. It’s a truly spine-tingling feeling to stand in an underground concrete oil tank of a former power station, listening to a beautiful 450-year-old piece of choral music.

Before visitors leave, name one thing you are very keen for them to have experienced?

Tate Exchange is an experimental new space unlike anything you will find in another museum. It’s where I work with lots of other organisations to explore how art relates to the wider social issues that matter to us all, from gender and sexuality to poverty and mental health. Since opening last autumn, it has really transformed the relationship with my visitors.

Children are the future of museums. What do younger visitors most enjoy when they come to see you?

The Turbine Hall brings out the kid in everyone. Younger visitors can often be found there, running down the ramp, sprawling on the floor, or staring open-mouthed at one of the amazing installations created for my annual Hyundai Commission. Last year, that was Philippe Parreno’s Anywhen and this October it will be a new work by Danish collective SUPERFLEX.

If you could share one amazing fact about yourself, what would it be?

You can see over 800 works of art for free, created by over 300 artists from over 50 countries around the world. They range from a room full of human hair and car bumpers to a tapestry made from thousands of bottle tops.

If you had to name one thing, what are you most proud of?

Every person who has visited that has come face-to-face with modern art for the first time. There have been millions of experiences like this over the years, but each one can be life changing.

You’ve had a fantastic 2016 and are in the running for Art Fund Museum of the Year. What are you looking forward to next?

I have just opened a major Giacometti retrospective, and this summer I’ve got an exhibition of American art in the age of Black Power and the UK’s first retrospective of Fahrelnissa Zeid.

So, July 5th. You hear your name read out… What would you do if you won Art Fund Museum of the Year?

It would be a huge honour, especially having been shortlisted alongside such a great range of museums. The past year has been non-stop, so it would be wonderful to look back and to see it acknowledged by our peers – before we all get on with another busy season of exhibitions and events.

This year we're asking visitors to the five finalists to share their best museum stories, reviews, photos, memories and moments on social media using #museumoftheyear.

Find out more about the prize, the history, the judges and this year's finalists at Art Fund Museum of the Year 2017.

Venue details

Tate Modern Bankside Greater London SE1 9TG 020 7887 8888

Entry details

50% off with National Art Pass

Daily, 10am 6pm, Fri and Sat until 10pm (last admission to special exhibitions 45 mins before closing)

Tags: museum-of-the-year