Art fans will be delighted by the new-look Tate Britain. The historic gallery reopened its riverfront entrance earlier this week and revealed the new Rotunda reception area, complete with a striking new spiral staircase.
This marks the end of a raft of changes to the building spanning back to March 2011, which aims to transform the oldest part of the Grade II building. This includes the now reopened Millbank entrance, Rotunda, and galleries in the south-east quadrant, which were reopened in May.
The transformation is more of an update than an expansion by architects Caruso St John, who have managed to keep the new touches in line with the nineteenth century style of the building. The new black and white scalloped terrazzo staircase is the centrepiece of the new Tate Britain, with a pattern inspired by Roman baths but which may recall Art Deco for most.
The Rotunda entrance and the surrounding walkways and stairwells are all open to the public again, restoring logic to the space and highlighting the presence of three levels. The gallery hopes this will allow guests to navigate and flow around the building more easily.
The lower floor hosts amenities such as the new education centre, Archive Gallery, the restored Rex Whistler restaurant – complete with its famous mural by the artist – and the new Djanogly café, which has a vaulted ceiling and opens out onto a terrace.
The top floor, which has been closed since the 1920s, is now a member’s area complete with its own bar. The main floor gives access to the collections, and there is now a better sight line through the gallery, allowing guests to orientate themselves and begin to work their way through the displays.
The works themselves were rehung in May, when the south-east gallery refurbishments were completed. The work is now displayed strictly chronologically, allowing guests to take a journey through nearly 500 years of British art, starting at 1540. This walk-through is supplemented by BP Spotlight exhibitions and new permanent galleries devoted to William Blake and Henry Moore.
Keep your eyes peeled for three individually commissioned artistic elements. In the Millbank foyer, Richard Wright has hand designed the glasswork within the eastern window to match the patchwork design of the WWII-damaged western window. Alan Johnston has hand shaded the ceiling for the Djanogly Café (below) with a 9H pencil. Finally, Nicole Wermers has created a dual headed tea and coffee spoon, which the Tate management hope aren’t too much of a temptation to souvenir collectors.
To celebrate Tate Britain is hosting a housewarming party from 15:00-22:00 on Saturday (23 Nov). Be sure to go and see the new spaces first hand and enjoy a DJ set from Hot Chip frontman Alexis Taylor, as well as a selection of talks, workshops and sound installations.