Channel 4 Learning

Tate Modern
DfES Schemes of Work
List of Art Works
Useful Links
Programme 1: Distortion
Programme 2: Abstract Art
Programme 3: Still Life
Programme 4: Objects in Odd Places
Programme 5: Different Dimensions
Programme 6: Pharmacy
Programme 7: Abstracting Landscape
Programme 8: Sculpture from Nature
Programme 9: Outside In
Programme 10: World War I
Programme 11: World War II
Programme 12: The Effects of War
Programme 13: Beautiful People?
Programme 14: A Different Point of View
Programme 15: Myself and Others
TV Transmissions
Curriculum Relevance
Print Version

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Tate Modern was opened in May 2000 to house the nation's collection of 20th and 21st century art. Housed in Giles Gilbert Scott’s disused Bankside Power Station, following a design by the Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron, the new, vast museum allows the Tate to exhibit far more of its collection than previously possible. The original Tate Gallery had been too small for decades, and even with the extra space provided by Tate Modern, not to mention Tate St Ives and Tate Liverpool, it is still not possible to display all of the collection at one time.

As a result the displays are often changed – any of the works included in the series Tate Modern can be exhibited in the gallery itself, but they could also be shown in Liverpool or St Ives. Any of the British works could also be shown at Tate Britain, the original home of the Tate Gallery.

The works might also be seen in a different context to the ones we show. When deciding how to hang the collection, the curators realised that a traditional chronological hang might not show the works to their best advantage. It was therefore decided to try a new, thematic approach, and the one chosen was based on the traditional genres of art that had evolved during the 18th and 19th centuries. Of these, the most obvious are still life – the depiction of inanimate objects – and landscape – images of the world around us, whether real or imaginary.

The curators also chose to consider History painting – in academic circles the most noble form of painting. As well as scenes from history this could include the stories of kings and queens, or for that matter ennobling tales from classical mythology or the Bible. The study of the nude has also always been important. It was important to develop the skills necessary for History painting, and as it involves the depiction of bodies, is connected to the painting of portraits.

However, artists of the 20th century did not follow these genres rigidly, and the genres have been expanded to encompass the new approaches and new techniques of modern art. The permanent collections have been arranged into four suites of rooms spread across two of the seven levels of Tate Modern. On level three the idea of Still Life is expanded by considering the ways in which, as well as depicting objects, artists have used the objects themselves. They have also considered the ways in which we use these objects in our everyday lives. Programmes 3–6 focus on the works which are most likely to be found within this, the 'Still Life, Object, Real Life' suite.

The story of Landscape painting is expanded to include the materials from which landscape is made, and also the environmental issues that this involves. Works in programmes 7–9 could be exhibited in the 'Landscape, Matter, Environment' suite, also on level three.

Level four is given over to large-scale temporary exhibitions, while level five houses the two remaining suites. Of these the 'History, Memory, Society' suite is the most likely setting for the works in programmes 10–12, while the works from programmes 1 and 13–15 are most likely to be seen in the 'Nude, Body, Action' suite. However, each artwork could be interpreted in a number of different ways, and may work on a variety of different levels, so they could also be exhibited in one of the other suites.