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Five reasons to admire Tate Britain's new look

Tate Britain unveils its £45million revamp this month. We step through the front door to find out why now is the best time to visit the home of British art

By Martin Coomer |
On November 19, Tate Britain shows off the results of an eighteen-month renovation project combining the restoration of the Grade II*-listed building with the creation of new galleries and public spaces. Here are five reasons why you should beat a hasty path to Millbank.
Tate Britain, 'Walk Through British Art', 2013

The collection’s a knockout

This month’s big reveal marks the completion of a project that’s already seen the rehang of the Tate’s permanent collection. The BP Walk Through British Art takes you on a rip-roaring journey through 500 years of art – focusing on big guns like Constable, Bacon, Hockney and Hirst but also providing plenty of opportunity to discover eccentricities and little-known gems – and all for free. Back in May, we gave these new galleries a resounding thumbs up (and five stars).

Tate Britain

Tate’s got its front door back

In retrospect, using the side door hasn’t been that much of a hindrance. Still, there’s no denying that visiting Tate Britain without climbing the steps to the building’s grand porticoed entrance (designed by Sidney RJ Smith in 1897), complete with statues of Britannia, a lion and a unicorn, has taken some of the thrill out of the experience. You’ll be able to do so again – and stand beneath Smith’s epic entrance hall dome, which leaves you in no doubt you’re crossing the threshold of a temple to art.

Simon Ling
© Simon Ling

There’s brand new art to enjoy

For those who can’t wait until November 19, Tate Britain is launching Painting Now: Five Contemporary Artists, its (ticketed) survey of contemporary British painting on Tuesday November 12. The ruminative abstractions of 2006 Turner Prize winner Tomma Abts set the tone for a show with an introspective, urban flavour.

Bart Van der Leck
© Bart van der Leck

Artists have been let loose on the archives…

Paul Noble’s deadpan humour shines through in the first exhibition in the Open Archive gallery, a new space dedicated to temporary displays of the Tate’s holdings of art, letters and ephemera. Looking back at the history of the area, the London draughtsman and sculptor has chosen art – including formal, gridded works by the likes of Dutch modernist Bart van der Leck – that refers, obliquely, to Millbank Prison, which once stood on the site.

Nicole Wermers
© Nicole Wermers

…and even the cutlery

Throughout the building, you’ll see evidence of contemporary artists at work on the architecture, fixtures and fittings. The 2009 Turner Prize winner Richard Wright has designed a stained glass window for the Millbank foyer. The teaspoons in the new Djanogly Café have had a makeover too – courtesy of Nicole Wermers. The London-based German sculptor has titled her desirable double-bowled creation ‘Manners’. Tea leaves take note.

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