Tate Modern was one of my favourite places to go pre-Pea. Even after many visits over the years, there’s still so much in the permanent collections that I’ve never checked out. Although many London parents consider Tate Modern a great option for a day out with the kids my visits here with Pea have been hit and miss. I really wanted to fit in one final visit before our move to Dublin though, and especially wanted to time it with Tate Exchange. Tate Exchange is an annual themed programme in which partner artists and institutions take over Level 5 of the Blavatnik building to test out ideas and collaborate.
We headed out on a cool morning in early February with Pea’s Dad able to join us too. Although Tate Exchange doesn’t start until midday, I wanted to get there as early as we could to get the full benefit of the Turbine Hall installation, Superflex’s One Two Three Swing! I’d popped in for this purpose a couple of times already with Pea but it was always so incredibly busy that we weren’t able to have a go on any of the wonderful swings. This time, we arrived soon after opening and there were already a lot of people but it wasn’t quite so manic and all three of us were able to have fun on the swings. To be fair, I don’t think Pea was actually that bothered about the swings. He was in his element crawling around on the rainbow coloured carpet though.
I’d hoped to have more time to take in some of the permanent collections and pay a final visit to my favourite, the Rothko room. But, by the time we’d exhausted the Turbine Hall and had a coffee at the level 1 Cafe, it was almost noon so we made our way from the Boiler house building to the Blavatnik Building. At this point, we first encountered the total frustration that is the lift system in Tate Modern. Each time the lift doors opened on our level the lift was already full and no one got out so it took us about 10 minutes of waiting to actually get to the 5th floor. It’s for this reason that I find Tate Modern much less baby and toddler-friendly than it really should be given the facilities there. There’s signage indicating that wheelchair and buggy users should be given priority access to the lifts but in practice this just doesn’t happen. In fairness, I’m not sure what else the gallery management could do here to discourage people from using the lifts unless they really need to but wasting so much time waiting for a lift to become available put all three of us in a bit of a grumpy mood.
Okay, rant over. We made it to the 5th floor for Tate Exchange. The current theme is Production and when we visited it was a Plymouth College of Art takeover under the name Factory Settings, all about challenging the idea of work. As we arrived, we were provided with clocking in sheets – the idea was that you could work your way around the various workstations and clock in to each one as you did. Workstations included screen printing, a production line for manufacturing babies and a large wall for drawing on. At one workstation, one of the students talked to us about the health benefits of certain plants (for example snake plants are good for respiratory issues) and we got to take away some plant cuttings. Our favourite though was Stillness, a tea station. Pea had just fallen asleep and we stumbled across a quiet little spot where we were invited to sit down and relax while we were brought a cup of tea! When we finished up with Tate Exchange we handed over our timesheets and were given our ‘wages’ in brown envelopes in recognition of our shift on the factory floor.
We decided to go up to the viewing level while Pea was still asleep – cue another farcically long wait to get into a lift. The view is undeniably stunning but by the time we got up there Pea woke up and needed feeding so it was a brief sightseeing mission before going back down to the ground floor level. By the time we fed him we were hungry ourselves and decided to call it a day at Tate and get some lunch over at the Southbank Centre food market. I never did get a final look at the Rothko’s.
Tate Modern is at Bankside, London SE1. Open daily with free admission. There are lifts to all floors (but you’ll lose the will to live while waiting for them), accessible toilets, baby change facilities, cloakroom, lockers and the level 1 cafe has high chairs. Tate Exchange is on the 5th floor of the Blavatnik Building from Tuesdays to Sundays and open 12.00pm – 18.00.