America's loss is rare gain for the Tate

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British audiences are to get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see rare and fragile works by the little-known German artist Eva Hesse, who died aged 34 in 1969 from a brain tumour.

An exhibition of her works, to be shown in November, has been snapped up by Tate Modern after the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York had to cancel its own show.

Hesse has often been likened to the poet Sylvia Plath because of the brevity of her career and her troubled life.

She worked with delicate materials such as sand, lightbulbs and pâpier-maché; many of her sculptures are deterioriating and rarely travel. Sir Nicholas Serota, the Tate's director, said it was unlikely that there would be another opportunity to present an exhibition of Hesse's work in Britain.