Tate goes on the tiles as museums cash in on the world of interiors

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The Independent Online
The Tate Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum are set to make their names as dinner party accessories.

The two national institutions are hoping that design-conscious hostesses will want walls painted in Tate Gallery "minimal blue" and sideboards gleaming with Victoria and Albert Museum polish.

If that fails to impress the dinner party guests, then wait till they need a pee. There, in the bathroom, are Paula Rego tiles, hand painted by one of the most acclaimed contemporary figurative artists.

And that necklace the hostess keeps running her fingers through so conspicuously. That "is designed by Maggi Hambling herself, darling, my own little gesture towards conceptualism".

Britain's best-known art institutions have decided to raise both money and awareness by plunging into the commercial arena of home furnishings.

Habitat, the middle-class home furnishings nirvana, has been licensed by the Tate Gallery to sell Tate household paints. And the V & A is going to allow its name to be put on a new brand of supermarket furniture polish. The Tate will also be issuing the work of Paula Rego on limited edition tiles. Both the Tate and the V & A have decided to make new departures in their marketing strategies in order to raise money and win a new breed of visitor for their collections.

A spokeswoman for the Tate said yesterday: "We want to promote the Tate to a new audience, the sort of people who would shop at Habitat, the 25- 35s who are interested in interior design, and we think would also be interested in coming to the Tate." She added that the Paula Rego hand- painted tiles were decorative and could "certainly be used in the bathroom".

In addition to the Paula Rego hand- decorated tiles, the Tate's own shop in the Gallery will be selling jewellery designed by Maggi Hambling and greeting cards by contemporary artists, including Fiona Rae, Tim Head, Lubaina Himid and Michael Landy.

Rego, who has a retrospective show on at the Tate, Liverpool, was commissioned by the Tate to produce the hand-painted tiles from her original designs, selling at pounds 50 each. In a separate commercial exploitation of its own name, the Tate's director, Nicholas Serota, has given Habitat permission to sell Tate household paints in its 38 stores. They will retail at pounds 19 each, with pounds 1 on every sale going to the gallery.

Habitat claims the colours of the household paints are named after movements in modern art, though the connection appears a loose one. The store will be selling future orange, modern yellow, abstract green, minimal blue, real turquoise and pure white.

The Tate's move into commercial exploitation is matched by the latest venture from the V & A, which is to launch its own range of furniture care products.

Ken Mannering, head of marketing at V & A Enterprises, the museum's commercial arm, said the expertise of the museum's conservation department could contribute to creating a new polish: "Some products for the very elite market probably already have the qualities we hope ours will have, but we want to endorse a mass market product. I hope the polishes will be sold in supermarkets."

The museum already licenses companies to sell V & A products including wallpaper, carpets, bed linen, china, glass and clothes, particularly wedding dresses and christening gowns.

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