One of the key events in this year’s art calendar was the opening weekend of the new wing of the Tate Modern (17th-19th June). The new building called the Switch House shaped like a twisted pyramid is anything but an eye sore amidst the London Skyline. Instead it looks instantly like it belongs and is a natural extension to the boiler based building of the original gallery.
Like the original Tate Modern, the new building is designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron and presents a striking combination of raw industrial spaces and classic modern shapes within its architecture. The majority of the new space is made out of exposed brick and concrete which acts as an oxymoron within the building. Whilst no one can deny the overwhelming sense of beauty you are hit with upon entering the new wing, the gorgeous architecture does not compromise the art, instead the use of raw materials prevents any major distraction from the art exhibited.
On the bottom floor of the Switch House are the Tanks which are wide open spaces adaptable to a diverse range of art forms. This new space is designed to highlight the ways in which different forms of art can be expressed for example through film and video, live actions, sculpture and sound. The large size of the open spaces in the Tanks allow for more immersive pieces than are usually exhibited at the Tate Modern such as Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s eight-screen video “Primitive”, which are projected across walls which surround a large floor space covered in pillows for visitors to lie down on.
Upon entering the new wing, it becomes immediately obvious that the building incorporates a deliberate movement away from fine art and pushes boundaries with regards to what mediums art can take. Both in the Tanks and in the permanent collections in the Switch House there seems to be a large emphasis on the senses with many pieces including the use of light, sound and varying textures. Though the scope of work has definitely broadened in comparison to the old permanent collections in the original building, there is still an extensive list of international artists whose work is exhibited such as Ai Weiwei.
On my first visit to the new wing, and yes I have been back at least three times since, I was immediately struck dumb by the magnificence of the building’s interior particularly the large concrete stairwell that joins the Tanks to the Switch House. I have never been particularly captivated by architecture but I found myself admiring the building as much as I was the art. I highly recommend a trip to the Tate Modern’s new wing especially in the height of summer the viewing platform on the tenth floor is home to one of the most dramatic views in London. The building is a powerful addition not just to London’s art scene but to the iconic skyline of the city.