It was founded in 1897 by Henry Tate with money earned from his sugar refineries. It was initially a collection of British art, concentrating on the works of modern - that is Victorian - painters. It later expanded its collection to include foreign art, and so in the twentieth century became principally a gallery devoted to Modernism.
Since 2000 the 'British' and 'Modern' aspects of the collection have been housed in separate buildings, with the Modern collection moving to a converted power station on the south side of the Thames. The original gallery is now called Tate Britain to distinguish it from several other recently-opened "Tate Galleries" in England, and is a national gallery for British art from 1500 to the present day.
Each year the museum organizes the Turner Prize, given to a British artist under 50, and the subject of great controversy as to what constitutes art.