Tate Britain is the oldest gallery in the Tate network of galleries, which also includes Tate Liverpool, Tate St Ives and the Tate Modern.
Located on Millbank and on the site of the former Millbank prison, Tate Britain is also next to Chelsea College of Arts which must be pretty inspiring for students!
Tate Britain has a huge collection of art from the 1500s onwards. There are lots of rooms and something for everyone to enjoy. My interests lie in modern and contemporary art but I really enjoyed spending time at the Turner collection on my last visit. The Turner Bequest (all his works found in his studio after he died in the mid 1800s) makes up the majority of the display in the Clore Gallery, and it reminded me just how special I find his oil paintings.
What I enjoyed most about my visit was two of the BP Spotlight exhibitions currently on. They share the same room and look at Sylvia Pankhurst and Women at Work. I left Sylvia Pankhurst with the battle for rights for women in my mind, to be swiftly reminded by Women at Work that rights don’t always equal equality.
Sylvia Pankhurst was the daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and known to me only as a campaigner for women’s rights. I had no idea that she was an artist too, having trained at Manchester Municipal School of Art and the Royal College of Art. She put her artistic talent to good use with the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), designing their banners, badges and flyers. The exhibition also features paintings from her time documenting the women workers of England.
Women and Work took us forward several decades to the 1970s and displays details from an investigation of women at work by Margaret Harrison, Kay Hunt and Mary Kelly. Timed to coincide with the Equal Pay Act that passed in 1970, they studied women working in a factory in Bermondsey, South London. The exhibition demonstrates the divide between men and women in the workplace in the 1970s, and offers a glimpse into a woman’s daily routine at that time.
After browsing some other rooms I later found myself in Martin Creed’s Work No. 227: The lights going on and off. Which is pretty much what it says on the tin. A large empty room / ‘space’ is filled with light for five seconds before darkness descends. And repeat.
According to the official Tate description, “In exploiting the existing light fittings of the gallery space, Creed creates a new and unexpected effect”. Go experience for yourself, or you can watch my short video: http://statigr.am/p/641283855773637819_45391318
If you’ve never been before it’s worth visiting Tate Britain. If that’s not enough free art for you, catch the riverboat up the Thames to the Tate Modern afterwards. We’re very lucky to have free access to these amazing places but sometimes we need a reminder to visit them!