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The must-see of the art year in Great Britain is the “Cathedral of Cool” — the new Tate Modern gallery, which opened in May. It’s the new home for the Tate Gallery’s international modern art collection, leaving the old museum, rebranded Tate Britain, to concentrate solely on British art. Billed as London’s rival to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Modern (Tel. 7887-8008) is free to all visitors (apart from some special exhibitions) and comprises 82 galleries featuring works by such stalwarts of post-1900 art as Picasso, Warhol, Bacon, Dali, Matisse, and Gilbert & George. But before you even look at a piece, take in the building. Created from a disused 1940s power station on the banks of the Thames at a cost of $214 million, the building comprises 114,000 square feet of floor space. Visitors walk directly into the Turbine Hall, which alone is 500 feet long and 100 feet high. The gallery has faced criticism from both artists and philistines. Conservative commentators have questioned the $90 million of National Lottery money pumped into what they believe is an elitist project of little interest to the man on the street. And the enfant terrible of British art, Damien Hirst, snubbed the opening after the gallery decided only at the last minute to include one of his works. Half the Tate Modern’s huge collection is on show at any time. There are three special exhibitions running during July. The Turbine Hall is the showcase for French-born American sculptor Louise Bourgeois’s three rusting steel towers — each 30 feet tall and supporting a platform surrounded by mirrors. Visitors can climb spiral staircases on the towers to reach the platforms. “Herzog & de Meuron at Bankside” takes visitors through the creative process of the gallery’s Swiss architects as they convert Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s power station. And “Between Cinema and a Hard Place” features single-room installations inspired by the mass media. By the time ABA visitors arrive, the delayed Millennium Bridge should be open, linking the gallery to the City of London on the other side of the Thames. The Tate Modern has grabbed the headlines, but it’s far from the only show in town. The National Portrait Gallery opened its startling new $26 million Ondaatje Wing in May. The centerpiece is the Tudor Gallery, displaying the gallery’s oldest paintings, including portraits of Henry VII, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and Shakespeare. The extension also gives visitors a spectacular view of the London skyline. ABA visitors will be in time to catch the Royal Academy’s annual open-submission Summer Exhibition, as well as a gallery devoted to U.S. artist Frank Stella. Back at Tate Britain, Mona Hatoum transforms domestic objects into unsettling art, including a vegetable shredder 20 times its normal size and cast in bronze. “Intelligence: New British Art 2000″ brings together the works of 22 contemporary British artists. And the Saatchi Gallery features Damien Hirst and Jenny Saville in its witty “Ant Noises” show. The major museums all have special summer exhibitions. At the Victoria & Albert Museum, it’s “Art Nouveau 1890-1914.” The British Museum offers “A Noble Art: Amateur Artists and Drawing Masters 1600-1800,” prints by pop artists Jim Dine and Michael Rothenstein, and “Burma and the Art of the Lacquer.” At the Science Museum, “The Art of Invention: Leonardo and Renaissance Engineers” presents 40 large-scale working models built from 500-year-old drawings, including da Vinci’s flying machine. And The Imperial War Museum has a major new permanent Holocaust exhibition, not recommended for under-14s, and “Spitfire Summer,” which evokes life during the Battle of Britain 60 years ago.

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