A good place to start for those wanting to soak up some culture in London is the Tate Modern. A hub of diversity in art and design, if you find yourself walking these corridors, you know it will be an afternoon well spent. With permanent exhibitions that update every now and then, and a continual program of guest exhibitions, talks and events, you can live and breathe art from around the world and be transported in time, without even leaving South Bank.
Go to the tenth floor of the Blavatnik building for great 360° views of London – perhaps one of the best and quietest free views you’ll find – and see the iconic skyline of St Paul’s Cathedral and Millennium Bridge before the Thames turns a corner and leads you on towards Tower Bridge. (Side note: if you arrive by overground train from London Blackfriars, you get some great views from the glass bridge too.) Treat yourself to a coffee while you soak up the view, and peruse the gallery map deciding which spots to hit. Working from the top down is a more unusual way to enjoy both the gallery and its unique architecture and placement in the capital. There will of course be floors you miss, and you’ll likely hop from building to building, so don’t forget to make use of the many lifts and the two foot bridges that link the buildings on both the first and fourth floors.

DON’T MISS IN THE BLAVATNIK BUILDING

You have two floors of free displays and a changing exhibitions space on level 2; pick up the latest map and see the posters when you visit to find out what’s on. Artist’s names are displayed outside the rooms, so be sure to look out for those you might know (I always enjoy seeing the work of Jenny Holzer, shown image 1&2 in second row) plus some new discoveries to take away. The architecture of this building alone makes it an attraction; the giant concrete staircases, double-height ceiling spaces and artworks dotted about the corridors mean that even if you get lost (you probably will at least once), you have plenty to keep you engaged and inspired. Anyone from any creative discipline can appreciate the beauty in this building and the work it houses.

DON’T MISS IN THE NATALIE BELL BUILDING

Though there are several entrances to the Tate Modern, you’ll more than likely arrive by the front door walking straight into level 1 of the Natalie Bell building. If so, you’ll pass the River Shop on your left, and come to a bridge overlooking the Turbine Hall. To stay in this building, turn right before the bridge taking either the stairs or a lift up to levels 2-4, where you’ll find a wealth of rooms to get lost in. Level 4 houses rooms “Materials and Objects” and “Media Networks”, and level 2 houses “Artist and Society” and “In The Studio” – all of which are worth a visit, and all of which are made up of many smaller rooms so you can pick and choose which bits spark your imagination the most.

James Rosenquist

Skull Snap 1989

Ellen Gallagher 

Bird in Hand 2006
(detail of)

Kazimir Malevich

Dynamic Suprematism 1915/1916

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR, HOW TO APPRECIATE ART & ART GALLERY ETIQUETTE 

Art is so subjective, that’s its beauty, and its floor. We all see the same work of art differently, appreciate different things, and draw our own conclusions from the work we are presented with. Don’t be afraid to have discussions with perfect strangers about the work you’re looking at, you’ll be amazed at how this can open your eyes to a new way of seeing, what you’ll learn from this person, and what they’ll learn from you. Some work will bore you, make you uncomfortable, make you question, but some will captivate you, draw you to it, and you’ll stand there for quite some time – all of life passing you by behind you – admiring it, working it out, and focussing on what drew you to it in the first place. Whenever I visit the Tate I find a new piece of work that excites me, something that ignites that artistic desire to just go and create, and I leave with a list of names of practitioners whose work I must find out more about. Don’t miss the work of Ellen Gallagher, one of my new discoveries,  and also the work of Aldo Tambellini which completely transforms the exhibition space into a dark, immersive almost otherworldly experience. There’s more to art than appreciating the final piece, take note of the materials, the process, and on large scale works look at the smaller details – you’ll notice most people passing this by.

the works of Aldo Tambellini at the Tate Modern

If you’re new to meandering around a gallery, there’s a few things to take note of:
look, don’t touch
believe me, people do…
photograph work in a way that credits the author
show it in the frame, or with name plaque
put your phone on silent
you don’t have to be quiet as a church mouse, but it’s just manners
don’t stand in front of someone appreciating work from a distance
sometimes you just need to take a step back to see the whole picture

COFFEE, BOOKS & PRINTS

No art gallery visit is complete without at least one coffee and a visit to the gift shop, and at the Tate Modern you really are spoiled for choice. With no less than six different places to get refreshments and five shops, if you only choose one to visit make it the Terrace Bookshop (Blavatnik Building, level 1) which sells a range of art books, gifts, jewellery and prints. If you’re anything like me, not only could you spend another hour in there, but you’ll find it really hard not to leave without buying something… 
If traditional art is more your thing, head across the river to the Tate Britain and be sure to take the scenic route – by boat!