Herzog & de Meuron's £134 million transformation of the Bankside Power Station into the new Tate Modern was this week unveiled prior to its 12 May public opening. And the Tate revealed that an exhibition on the work of the celebrated Swiss architect will be the gallery's very first show.
The Tate is trumpeting the launch of its new building - to display its collection of art from 1900 to the present - as an event comparable to the openings of the Museum of Modern Art in the 1920s and the Pompidou Centre in Paris in the 1970s. It is also pushing the project as 'the most important investment in a new national arts institution in London since the National Theatre was completed in 1976,' and as having the potential to generate £90 million for London each year and 2400 jobs. Research by McKinsey & Company indicates it will attract at least two million visitors a year and bring up to £35 million of direct and indirect benefits to the borough of Southwark.
Built with £50 million of Millennium Commission money and £6.2 million more from the Arts Council's Lottery fund, the project is the latest in a 'network' of Tates across the country - Liverpool, St Ives and the Millbank base. The latter was recently re-badged as Tate Britain and redeveloped with £18.75 million of yet more Lottery money from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Tate Modern has pledged free entry, barring the three or so blockbuster exhibitions it plans to hold each year. Running costs for such a large building are expensive at £12 million per year, but a spokeswoman for the Tate said this has already been raised and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has granted £5 million per year. The Tate Modern is now only £5 million short of raising the £134 million project cost.
Herzog & de Meuron's scheme involves a new two-storey glass roof structure to provide light, views across London and a new 160-seat restaurant and 'entertainment space'. This will be illuminated at night. Visitors enter via a new entrance at the west of the building and then descend down a ramp into the vast former turbine hall (3300m2: 155m long, 23m wide and 35m high). The galleries are on three levels and there are also film and seminar rooms, an auditorium, members rooms, a shop and cafe.
The opening exhibition on Herzog & de Meuron's work has been designed by the practice and will be 'an exciting new form of exhibition-making'. The practice's relationship with the 1963 Sir Giles Gilbert Scott building will be explored through a series of ten exhibition points at various locations inside the new building. Visitors will first see a giant model of Bankside at the entrance from where they will 'embark on a journey of discovery and revelation' as they are led to different locations 'providing insights into the hidden anatomy of the building.' The exhibition runs until December and the Tate Modern spokeswoman said that further architectural shows are planned.