Six years after it opened its doors, Tate Modern has unveiled a new look to its 48 galleries devoted to the display of the permanent collection.
The collection "lies at the heart of any museum worth its name", says Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota. Since 2000 the four wings of the gallery housing the collection displays have been organised thematicly – a bold and controversial decision at the time.
Tate Modern director Vicente Todoli acknowledges that the original thematic organisation had a "sell-by date" and that it was time for a new model. In the six years since the gallery opened, "we have learned to use this building to greater effect", adds Serota.
The four wings in the new-look arrangement each revolves around a central display that focuses on a key period of innovation in twentieth century art history. The four periods are associated with Cubism, Futurism and Vorticism; Surrealism and Surrealist tendencies; Abstract Expressionism and European Informal Art; and Minimalism.
Around these focal points a range of displays move backwards and forwards in time, exploring how these movements both reflect earlier artistic practice and shape and inform subsequent developments and contemporary art.
There continues to be direct dialogues between contemporary art and the past with an introductory room for each suite bringing together a striking pairing of landmark works by two artists from different generations.
"It's not just old wine in new bottles" says head of displays Frances Morris, explaining that around 40 per cent of the works in the new displays have never been shown at Tate Modern before. These include icons such as Whaam! by Roy Lichtenstein and recently acquired works including important pieces by Francis Picabia and Anish Kapoor.
Some 20 per cent of works on display are recent acquisitions and major works by Tacita Dean, the Guerrilla Girls, Christian Marclay, John Baldessari and Cildo Meireles are displayed for the first time.
The new-look galleries opened to the public on Tuesday morning. Guests at the VIP party on Tuesday night included Conservative leader David Cameron, Maggi Hamblin and Tracy Emin.
The revamp has been sponsored by UBS, who are also backing a series of free live events. The first is UBS Openings: The Long Weekend, a four day festival which will take place at Tate Modern between Friday 26 May and Monday 29 May 2006.
The programme will also include major live events in May 2007 and 2008 and bi-monthly live performance art events building upon earlier performances by Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, DV8 and Merce Cunningham.