A new twist on an old favourite as transformed Tate Britain reopens
After a £45m transformation, the gallery is back to its best with stripped-back features and a front door opening on to the Thames once more
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Monday 18 November 2013
Tate Britain carries the marks of its 116-year history, of architectural development, floods, Second World War bombings and overzealous interior designers.
Now it has undergone a £45m transformation to prepare it for the 21st century, which involves “renewing” some of its lost grandeur and stripping back the layers that have left it “blunted”.
The new Tate Britain will this Tuesday be unveiled to the public, who will again be able to arrive through the refurbished main entrance that overlooks the Thames, with its grand neoclassical portico.
Penelope Curtis, director of Tate Britain, said the new gallery “opens up the Millbank entrance to reassert and enhance the original grandeur and logic of the galleries”. She said she hoped it would be a “clearer and more pleasurable” way for visitors to experience British art.
The works on the oldest part of the Grade II*-listed building on Millbank, were carried out by architects Caruso St John, taking three years. “We haven’t lost anything we loved about this building,” Ms Curtis said. “We’ve peeled away the accretions and taken it back to the simplicity.”
The changes follow another major overhaul earlier this year, with the reconstruction of 10 galleries and a rehang of the collection of British art in chronological order at the gallery. Sir Nicholas Serota, director of Tate, called it an “exciting day” and said the history of the venue was one of expansion and renewal.
“Between 1960 and 1990 people felt apologetic about this building. They felt they needed to reduce the heights of ceilings and introduce false walls,” he said. “With accretions and layers of paint we had become rather blunted and almost municipal in character.” Referencing criticism from the 1940s and 1950s that the building had no distinctive qualities, Sir Nicholas said: “Now it does.”
One of the biggest changes to the design is a striking new spiral staircase inside the entrance leading to new public spaces on the floor below. The spaces below include the Archives Gallery, which will house temporary displays from the Tate’s huge vaults. Among the documents currently on display are plans for the prison that was on the site before the gallery – as well as a note from plasterers hidden in the original building in 1897.
The Tate was designed by architect Sidney Smith, and first opened its doors to the public in 1897 with 245 works in eight rooms. Following the renovations, Ms Curtis said they had discovered Smith was “perhaps a better architect than many people had realised”.
The team working on the three-year revamp have opened up the circular balcony in the domed atrium for members and have created a Grand Saloon for functions. This space has been closed since the flood of 1928, when the Thames broke its banks and flowed into the gallery.
Some 95 per cent of the renovations were paid for through private donations, with the rest being made up by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Tate chairman Lord Browne said this marked a “triumph for private philanthropy”.
Sir Nicholas said visitors would now experience the building “in ways they had not done in the past”. He added that “the whole experience of coming to Millbank will be changed from simply looking at pictures to an environment that is stimulating to be within. That’s what Henry Tate originally wanted.”
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Oscar voter speaks outfilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Isis burns thousands of books and rare manuscripts from Mosul's libraries
- 2 Scarlett Johansson new band 'already hit with legal complaint' from another The Singles
- 3 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Michael Keaton putting his acceptance speech away was the saddest Oscars 2015 moment
Madonna falls off stage at Brit Awards – then nails her performance
Alien 5: Sigourney Weaver will reprise Ripley role in new movie, says director Neill Blomkamp
Wolf Hall finale, review: Simply brilliant TV
All fiction follows one of six basic storylines, according to new research
Oscars 2015: Birdman beats Boyhood as Eddie Redmayne and Patricia Arquette win big - as it happened
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit