London is noted for its array of brilliant museums and art galleries, with the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern standing out from the pack as two of the very best. As an art fan, you may be wondering – which one should I visit?
Ask any London local, and they’ll soon tell you there’s no real need to choose between the two – both offer a unique experience for visitors to the city. However, if you only have limited time, this quick guide should help you choose the perfect ‘Tate’ for you.
Contemporary or traditional art?
It probably goes without saying that the Tate Modern specialises in contemporary and modern art, whilst the Tate Britain offers more traditional fare. This isn’t to suggest that one is somehow better than the other, but they are unmistakably different in their approach – and this is reflected in every aspect of the respective art galleries.
If you’re a big fan of the classics, then you are likely to gravitate towards (and get more from) a trip to the Tate Britain while staying at the Park Grand London Paddington. Likewise, if you adore contemporary artists, then the Tate Modern is sure to impress.
Pretty or avant-garde?
The architecture of each museum is also distinctive, and while this may not be a major factor when you make your decision, it helps to reflect the artwork which is housed within. The Tate Britain is more conventionally pretty, with a spiral staircase and Victorian accents which have been developed since the museum’s original founding during the late-1800s.
The museum has recently been renovated to help restore it to its original glory, with artwork showcased against a monochrome backdrop which perfectly suits the art you’ll find here. The Tate Modern however takes a more minimalistic approach to décor, with industrial details and sparse interior décor, similarly reflecting the avant-garde nature of the artwork it champions.
Tate Britain houses more famous artwork
For those hoping to see some truly famous art during their stay at a Paddington hotel in London, the Tate Britain is the perfect choice. Modern art often takes a little longer to get noticed, and many of the artists are on the fringes of the art world instead of having centuries for their work to gain momentum – making the Tate Modern a place to see new trends (and a few contemporary classics) rather than a home for the Old Masters.
Some of the key artwork currently on display at the Tate Britain includes Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shalott and Constable’s Flatford Mill, alongside a vast number of both paintings and sculptural works by British artistic legends like Turner and Francis Bacon. These pieces range from finished works to sketches, providing a comprehensive look at the development and changing styles of the British art scene through the ages.
The artwork on display here dates from the 1500s right up to the present day, while the Tate Modern focuses entirely on the contemporary art scene. Both museums also offer space for you to buy a few mementos of the trip in an adjoining gift shop.
Tate Modern is a larger museum
If you have only a little time to explore, then it might be wise to stick to the smaller Tate Britain, rather than the sprawling surroundings of the Tate Modern. However, if a lengthy browse is what you’re looking for, then the enormous museum is perfect.
The Tate Modern was expanded in recent years to double its size, and includes large rooms perfect for the modern installations which contemporary artists often specialise in. This isn’t to suggest that the Tate Britain is a petite museum, so either way you’ll have plenty to see during your stay at the Park Grand London Paddington.
Tate Modern offers stunning views
While the artwork is likely to be your top priority while visiting a museum, a great London view is always welcome. Here, the Tate Modern wins – with a comprehensive viewing terrace which is open to visitors all year, and offers a full panorama of London’s skyline.
From here, you’ll be able to see many of the city’s top landmarks, helping you do a little quick sightseeing during your trip.
Tate Britain is more mainstream
The nature of the art at Tate Britain often makes it the more accessible space for those who aren’t quite sure what kind of art they like. It’s also the perfect space for fans of traditional art to immerse themselves in some of the most important artworks over the centuries.
In addition, the Tate Britain offers a broad range of artistic styles, instead of focusing on a single niche. This is a great way to see a wide variety of different art trends and eras.
Tate Modern is quirkier
The Tate Modern first opened its doors in 2000, as a way to house and showcase the Tate Britain’s growing modern art collection. It has since developed dramatically in both size and scope, but it differs from the Tate Britain in several key ways.
While the Tate Britain focuses primarily on British artists and traditional art, the Tate Modern has a more international focus – and includes several pieces designed specifically to provoke thought and conversation.
This includes large-scale installations and audio-visual works, making it a popular space for fans of the unusual. Some of the items on display will entertain, others confuse. However, you can always be sure of finding something new and intriguing.
The museum is housed over several floors and buildings, and eschews conventional chronological organisation in favour of thematic displays. It’s also not simply 21st century artists on display, with work by modern masters such as Picasso and Andy Warhol available to view.
Both museums offer their own distinctive take on art, so if you can access both you can easily enjoy a full day indulging your inner art critic. If not, simply select the museum which most keenly appeals to your aesthetic sensibilities.