Our trek across the city via the Tube, along with a gorgeous walk across Blackfriars Bridge and down the banks of the Thames River, was a magical start to our journey at the Tate Modern. After taking in the historic Globe Theatre along the way, we were greeted with the sublime sounds of echoing jazz by a talented street artist which fit the aura of our backdrop perfectly. It felt almost timed how - as soon as the family paused to marinate on the music - bubbles surrounded us to the kids' absolute delight. Another street performer down the bank was extruding gigantic amounts of bubbles using a homemade device which triggered the kids to run in and around to catch them all. After a good deal of Pounds were shared, we started in towards the iconic building, a former Bankside Power Station. Tall, dark and grand in stature, I would imagine that it would have felt quite intimidating to approach for someone who might have had a first day of work there in the past.
The Power Station, built in 1947 and closed in 1981, was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. After much debate over whether to demolish the building, the Tate Gallery was approved to use for developing the home of the new Tate Modern. In 1995, following a 12-million-pound grant, renovations and expansions began. After an international competition for the work, Herzog and De Meuron were the selected Architects and the work was completed in 2000. After original equipment was removed and the structure was stripped to its steel structure, the grand entry and exhibition space was designated in the Turbine hall, while the galleries were housed within the boiler house and expansions. The museum is currently one of the top visited sites in all of London.
The Turbine hall’s “adult playground,” Superflex: One Two Three Swing!, is a Hyundai-commissioned art installation by the artist collective group Superflex. It surely did not disappoint! The swings immediately stirred up the kids’ excitement upon walking in. The one, two or three person swings are completely interactive and welcomes visitors to weave in and through the pipes that run across the mezzanine level down to the ground floor level where the swings are located. It was no doubt the superstar of our visit for adults and kids alike, and we spent a considerable amount of time before and after roaming the exhibition halls to enjoy this art piece. Across the hall, a huge mirrored pendulum was in constant swinging motion above a sloping ground covered with vibrant stripy colored carpeting. The ultra-plush carpet invited us to join in with the others to lie down and just lounge and breathe while staring up at the almost trance inducing pendulum. It was a peaceful respite to be still and just take in the cavernous and stimulating hall while the undulating repetitive noise of the pendulum hummed in the background.
I appreciated the Family Map, which were available for a pound. It highlights the family friendly exhibits, special family rooms, the more interactive exhibits and even points out specific art pieces with suggestions on how to view and questions that could make the trip more interesting for younger ones. The map is a perfect place to start a self guided tour, and so we gladly followed along ourselves for the remainder of our visit.
The exhibition halls were filled with stimulating sculptures and paintings, including some iconic Matisse, Modigliani, Dali, Basquiat, and Picasso. Many curious debates on what the “lobster phone” was all about, whether the poor hungry man was homeless, and why another was being eaten by strange beasts filled the halls with conversation as we walked through and processed it together. We walked through the Tanks in the Blavatnik building to view Zineb Sedira’s Mother Tongue, a video piece which I found quite moving. There were no live performances going on, but the empty and somewhat eerie Tanks definitely called for some of our own impromptu prancing around and silly photo sessions.
After some snacks and some wandering through, my daughter was keenly interested in visiting the Drawing Bar. The Drawing Bar, a part of Bloomberg Connects: interactive digital projects, features Digital Sketch Pad stations that allow the visitor to freely draw what they were inspired by, and after completing they project your image onto the wall for display. My daughter drew a series of Peppa Pig characters to reflect her personal inspiration throughout our entire London trip thus far and I got to spend some time lost in my own creations.
The gift shop was filled with fun and interesting goods and we were sure to pick up some small gifts for family and friends before heading back out to the chilly and now sundown outdoors. The walk across the Millennium Bridge is a definite must at nighttime, as it is the perfect opportunity to savor the gorgeous views of the city.