Art beats going to the pictures

More people visit galleries than cinemas - and 20 more are planned, reports Catherine Pepinster

BRITAIN is enjoying an art gallery renaissance, with at least 20 new galleries being planned across the country.

Industrial towns, ancient cities and even the meadows of the Thames Valley will benefit; while artists who will be shown to be much greater effect range from Ruskin and Lowry to the French impressionists.

While proposals for the Tate's new Bankside gallery in London are well known, many of the others are not. The new buildings will cost a total of pounds 200m, and as well being showcases for Britain's leading contemporary artists, will also be designed by some of the country's leading architects including Terry Farrell and David Chipperfield.

Although the initiative for most of the proposed galleries comes from local authorities, the finances depend on those two modern-day bogeymen - the National Lottery and Europe.

Critics who believe that subsidising the arts via the lottery only benefits an affluent elite are quite wrong, says Bill Macnaught, the man behind a pounds 20m gallery in Gateshead.

"Look at the queues at the Tate for the Turner Prize show. There is a genuine upsurge of interest in contemporary art, but not everyone can travel to London to see it."

Museums and galleries have never been more popular. In 1993, 110 million visits were made to galleries, compared to 103 million visits to the cinema.

Ten of the galleries are being designed to house changing exhibitions of contemporary art, and another four will provide new space for existing collections which cannot be shown because of a lack of space. The rest will be accommodated in refurbished premises, including all the accroutrements of the modern gallery: education spaces, cafes, shops and interactive media.

Among the most important is a new pounds 10m gallery which will be used to house the outstanding Garman-Ryan collection of modern art and sculpture, left to Walsall by the second wife of sculptor Jacob Epstein and currently housed in the overcrowded Walsall Museum. For years,the Black Country town has been linked in the public imagination to heavy industry, but it is also home to one of Britain's most important collections of art, including works by Picasso Monet and Goya.

Also on display in the new gallery will be sculptures of Epstein's own family, complete with their cat and dog, Frisky.

North of the border, Timothy Clifford, director of the National Galleries of Scotland, is planning "a Scottish Musee D'Orsay" in the centre of Glasgow. Housed with-in an old post office, it will show art from the Victorian era to the present day.

The Glasgow space will be complemented by an Edinburgh gallery designed by Terry Farrell and dedicated to the Scottish-Italian artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, while in Inverness the 2000 Artspace is a pounds 15m project devoted to contemporary Scottish art. Its patrons include Ian Anderson, the Jethro Tull singer who is the town's biggest employer through his fishbusiness.

But it is in the north of England that the greatest number of new galleries are being planned. Among them are contemporary art galleries in Berwick upon Tweed, Gateshead and Sunderland; an extension to the Laing gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne ; and a new Ruskin gallery in Lancaster.

Art is not just a metropolitan venture. The idea of rural galleries is also beginning to catch on in Britain, inspired by the Danish Louisiana gallery, spectacularly set in gardens on the Baltic coast.

At Wallingford, Oxfordshire, Louisiana's architect, Vilhelm Wohlert, is designing a pounds 40m art park in 32 acres besides the Thames, while the Mid Wales Centre for the Arts will also enjoy a pastoral setting within the grounds of Powys Castle.

For the majority of Britain's planned galleries, government money and old-fashioned civic pride are essential. But at Compton Verney, where architects Stanton and Williams are converting the eighteenth century stately home into a modern art gallery, that other old-fashioned arts standby, the wealthy patron, is behind the project. Who is the millionaire concerned? None other than Peter Moores, heir to the Littlewoods pools fortune. The fortunes of fine art are, it seems, always a lottery after all.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you familiar with the sayin...

Recruitment Genius: Hospitality Assistant

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker

£6 - £7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most