Bankside party is London's smartest ticket

Click to follow

The crockery, with its distinctive Herzog and de Meuron-influenced design, was being unpacked yesterday. The "wall text" - labels identifying works and artists - was being positioned on walls.

And in the press office staff were fending off callers desperate to get on to the guest lists of one of the parties of the year. The Tate Modern will be launched with an unprecedented series of celebrations for some of the most famous, powerful and rich people in Britain.

On 11 May the Queen is to open the long-awaited gallery, designed by Herzog and de Meuron, to the sound of a fanfare by Sir Harrison Birtwistle.

The Tate has been besieged with requests for tickets to its biggest event, a gala in the central space of the former power station on the South Bank later that evening, to be broadcast live by the BBC.

Every living artist on display in the gallery has been invited to the BT-sponsored party, including the Turner Prize winners Damien Hirst, Rachel Whiteread and Gillian Wearing. Sir Paul McCartney is expected with his fashion-designer daughter, Stella. Mick Jagger is invited, as is Jerry Hall. With Madonna, Yoko Ono and a mere 4,000-odd other guests, the list is already being touted as determining who is who in 21st- century Britain. "We are still getting calls each day," said a spokeswoman for the Tate. "This is obviously the opening of this country's first museum of modern art, so yes, it is generating a lot of interest."

The most exclusive event, however, begins at 7pm on 3 May, when 250 people will meet for a private view followed by a champagne dinner in the Turbine Hall. These will be the most important guests, the benefactors.

They include such bodies as the Millennium Commission, the Arts Council and many corporate heads. They also feature a sprinkling of star names, including Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys, who gave the Tate Modern £10,000 the group won in a libel trial.