Things to Look Out for in the Tate Modern

Discover the most inspiring pieces by extraordinary living artists at the cutting-edge of contemporary art inside the Tate Modern.


The Tate Modern is in the midst of some very exciting renovations, not least of which is the nearing completion of the new gallery designed by Herzog & de Meuron, set to open in June 2016. With a re-shuffling of its permanent collections set to take place to accompany the re-opening of the museum, now is the ideal time to take a step back and appreciate some of the best pieces from the Tate Modern’s current perennial catalogue and gaze deeply into the Tate Modern turbine hall. Although the Tate Modern has a complete canon of Modern art, here master artists such as Picasso, Dali, and Giacometti have been overlooked in favour of their more contemporary counterparts.

Please note that this list does not include the new Tate Modern extension


Lee Bull, Untitled (Cravings White), 1988, reconstructed 2011
Lee Bull’s uncanny, hypnotising work Untitled (Cravings White) hovers impossibly off the ground to greet you when entering the Tate Modern’s ‘Making Traces’ wing. The semi-organic form echoes tenticels, knives, cancerous growths, and tree trunks. Intended to be worn during a performance that takes the body’s delimited reach to new and fantastical extremes, the work also works on its own as a complete multi-media sculpture. The Korean artist’s work questions patriarchal authority and the marginalization of women by revealing ideologies that permeate our cultural and political spheres. These themes take form in cold, mechanical sculptures and installations that reflect the ideals of a futuristic society. She focuses on “our fear and fascination with the uncategorizable, the uncanny,” to great effect, unintentionally carrying on the idea of the Eldrich Monstrosity (an allegory for existential anxiety) that first arose in the science fiction of H.P. Lovecraft in the early 20th century. Parallels are certainly in place between her and Rebecca Horn.

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Rebecca Horn, Arm Extensions, 1968
Currently there is a well-deserved room dedicated entirely to the works of Rebecca Horn. Focusing on her wearable works of sculpture, her pieces challenge the limits of the human body and raise questions about social female constriction, the effects of physical illness on the psyche, and the relationship between the body and its surrounding space. Designed for performance in front of a camera, the sculptural works still have a powerful effect when removed from their wearers. In particular, keep an eye out for her 1968 work ‘Arm Extensions’ which flabbergasts the expected silhouette of the female form by added fleshy appendages to the arms, extending them into willowy stumps that reach the ground, whilst red bandages wrap around the legs and torso, completely restricting movement. The entire effect of the work brings to mind the image of Egyptian mummies (a comparison Horn herself raised); the constriction of form in death that simultaneously represents inner transformation, eternal stillness, and ethereal beauty is mirrored in the unsettling yet elegant final piece.

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El Anatsui, Ink Splash II, 2012
El Anatsui’s work has captured the imagination of the art world for almost two decades with his iconic ‘bottle top installations’, distinctive large-scale assemblages of thousands of pieces of aluminium sourced from alcohol recycling stations and sewn together with copper wire, transforming them into metallic cloth-like wall sculptures. These address the connections between consumption, waste, and the environment with all the elegance of a superb abstract painting. His Ink Splash II transforms the disposable bottle tops into a shimmering metal cloth, showing the familiar in a newly precious and adaptable form. 

Bouquet in Imperial Style 1988 by Boris Orlov born 1941

Boris Orlov, Bouquet in Imperial Style, 1988
This politically charged iron-wrought sculpture incorporates an array of communist symbols, including the red star, hammer and sickle, and a hyperbolic multitude of banners and medals. Made during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it celebrates an empire that does not exist with deliberate irony. Orlov has investigated the idea of ‘imperial style’ in several works. It is, he says, the ‘showy façade’, masking darker, dirtier historical realities; the play between the two is, in his words, ‘the essence of empire’.


Visit the Tate Modern at Bankside, London, SE1 9TG

Tate Modern opening hours: open daily from 10am-6pm. The same hours apply to the Tate Modern shop (where you can buy unique National Portrait Gallery prints).

For information on the transient Tate Modern exhibitions, please see the Tate Modern Gallery website for information.

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