Gateshead's £46m arts space to vie with London

Britain's largest gallery space outside London will be opened today, adding to the view that regional arts venues are beginning to rival those of the metropolis.

Baltic – a £46m lottery funded gallery on the banks of the Tyne at Gateshead – follows the creation of Salford's Lowry and Walsall's New Art gallery, which have both been big commercial successes, in the past two years.

Baltic's director, Sune Nordgren, has already declared that he will not take any exhibitions that are from the capital and that Londoners must visit the North-east to see shows they would otherwise need to travel to Barcelona or New York to catch. "We are placed in Gateshead but this is an international centre for contemporary art," he said.

Baltic has been built in the shell of a redundant brick grain silo. Its height has provided a vast space for six main floors and three mezzanines, housing five art spaces the size of aircraft hangars, a 300-seat performance space, a 60-seat cinema and a media lab. Mr Nordgren's intention is that visitors will be able to find something new on display every four weeks at the Baltic, which will not provide a permanent exhibition.

Visitors to the inaugural exhibition, B.Open, will be invited to bang on an installation of gongs by Juame Plensa and examine a Meccano model of the Tyne Bridge by Chris Burden. Another attraction will be the Japanese performance artist Tatsumi Orimoto, who dances with bread attached to his arms and head. Artists from Cuba, Germany, Scotland and Japan have created works for the art studios.

The building marks the latest development in the remarkable reinvention of Gateshead, which was in the throes of post-industrial gloom before it took the decision to erect Antony Gormley's Angel of the North sculpture six years ago – the tallest piece of public art in Britain at the time.

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