Five years of Tate Modern... But has it really achieved anything?

It's a important fixture on Britain's cultural map, but what does it represent? Below, the Tate assesses its achievements, and we ask artists and commentators to put their views
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The Independent Online

In the five years since it opened, Tate Modern has become such an accepted part of the London landscape and international art world that it scarcely seems possible that London, alone of all capital cities, was without a proper museum of modern art until 2000.

In the five years since it opened, Tate Modern has become such an accepted part of the London landscape and international art world that it scarcely seems possible that London, alone of all capital cities, was without a proper museum of modern art until 2000.

Only 10 years ago, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's great building lay opposite St Paul's; dark, unknown, unloved and threatened with demolition.

Imaginatively converted by Herzog & de Meuron, it was recently voted the capital's favourite building. It has been seen as a symbol of regeneration of life in the capital, and has appeared in feature films, advertisements and novels.

In five years, more than 20 million visitors have ... enjoyed the experience of being in the great Turbine Hall. They have visited a range of exhibitions and events and participated in education programmes which have matched those previously available only in Paris, New York and Berlin.

Ambitious exhibitions including Warhol, Matisse, Picasso and Edward Hopper have attracted new audiences for the visual arts and the range and depth of contemporary exhibitions have been a real stimulus to an audience for the art of our own times.

New facilities, new programmes and new skills in the field of education and interpretation have enabled Tate to offer much more extensive and challenging programmes for general visitors, schools and the local community, [and] ... performances crossing boundaries between visual and other arts have been enthusiastically welcomed.

And yet in spite of these successes, which have been sustained by a combination of public and private funding and an unusually high proportion of earned income, much of the potential at Tate Modern remains to be developed.

Some of this promise will eventually be realised by our project, "Completing Tate Modern". This ... will ... provide much more extensive spaces for learning and community activities, a performance space and different types of gallery suited to showing a variety of art, including installation, photography, film and new media.

But in advance of the new building there is evidently a demand for a wider range of programmes, piloted in the last five years but new to Tate, notably in performance, film and photography. Our aim is to achieve a vision of a museum not limited to the traditional fine arts of painting and sculpture. And we need to ensure the programme also has a depth and texture the community of artists and scholars deserves.

Tate Modern ... will continue to surprise, challenge, delight and reward only if it continues to break new ground.

From Tate Modern: The First Five Years, to be published on Thursday by Tate, in association with Demos and the London School of Economics

Peter Blake, artist

I didn't like it at all at first. I felt all the interest in it was artificial and that all the people were going simply just to say they had been there. But when Tate Britain opened its new frontage, the two places worked well together; there is a balance between them. It has found its place and I have grown to like it.

I think it is a good thing that Tate Modern has helped increase a general interest in art, since much of my work has been about making art more populist and getting people involved who might not otherwise be interested.

I don't especially like the building or the enormous space of the Turbine Hall. It seems to me to be about space for space's sake and so you have to have these big pieces in there to utilise the space. You can feel very lost. It is strange, but I have never gone there and come away feeling elated. But since I have never been exhibited there, I don't feel the same sense of identity that I do with Tate Britain.

Tim Marlow, director of White Cube gallery, art historian and television presenter

Tate Modern is a symptom and a cause of the strength of British art. It is a wonderful thing. The impact that British artists have made internationally has been huge. It is something that would have been inconceivable in London even 20 years ago, when it was the only major city in the world without a museum of modern art. There has always been an antipathy in British culture towards the visual, and the cultural establishment has always been dominated by the literary world.

It has got the perfect location, because there is drama and spectacle wherever you look. And then there is the drop-by factor - we take it for granted, but free access to all for the national collections is important. There is a great feeling at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which has the world's greatest collection, but you have to pay $20 to get in and that creates a completely different atmosphere. But when Moma moved to Queens in New York, it made sure it bought up all the property nearby because they knew that their presence would push prices up. If the Tate had been able to do that, it would be sitting on a fortune and could have become self-funding. You don't get that kind of thinking in this country. When it was being set up, the Government was pouring money into the Dome.

Mathew Collings, critic and writer

It is a complicated thing. You could not have conceived of contemporary art being at the centre of the social and cultural agenda 10 to 15 years ago in the way that it is today and that building stands for that.

But I think it is a repellent place. The art is silly and full of intellectual jokes which are treated with unbearable pretentiousness and solemnity by visitors. It stands for a moment of extreme silliness in art. A lot of the art there is supposed to take a stand on issues, but it just presents them - like a photograph of a newspaper front page - and doesn't say anything. I reject the idea that it is a celebration of a great new cultural change. The British people, being overwhelmingly philistine are not visually aware. The Turbine Hall is a bit like a shoddy provincial arts centre ...too much that is paltry, second rate and empty.

Tracey Emin, artist

It has changed foreigners' attitudes towards British art and towards Britain being a centre for visual arts. Spain has got the Guggenheim in Bilbao and New York has got the Museum of Modern Art - although before they updated it, it was grubby - and in Germany they have the Kunsthallen. Now we have this on a magnificent scale. If there's anything to persuade people to look at contemporary art, this is it. I think Nick Serota is fantastic. He threw everything up in the air. If it had gone wrong, it would have been bad for him and for British art.The tax laws have to be changed so people are encouraged to give art.

Charles Saumarez Smith, director of the National Gallery

It was an amazing achievement to create a gallery of contemporary art on the scale of Tate Modern in a way which has achieved huge numbers of visitors and very little criticism. If one thinks back, historically, the idea that there could be an institution like Tate Modern which is not regarded as controversial is extraordinary. The culture was very against contemporary art and one only has to compare the response to Tate Modern with the response to the Dome to see that it could well have run into difficulties. I think Nick is a national hero to have pulled it off. I think people often underestimate what an impact it has on people's impression of us overseas. We all take the lottery for granted now but none of this would have been possible if the lottery hadn't been set up.

Katharine Burton, contemporary art specialist at Christie's, London

London is now a site where you see big exhibitions of major artists, which didn't happen before. It means London is now on a par with New York. Tate Modern often has major shows at the beginning of June and we have sales at the end of June and there is a tie-in. And Tate Modern's presence has contributed to other things that are happening in London [such as] the Frieze art fair, which has become an exciting thing for international collectors. I love the building; it's a fascinating, awe-inspiring space. Sometimes it is the victim of its own success. The Rothko paintings are supposed to be in a hallowed space but there is a corridor through it and children running about. The opportunities for transcendental thought were minimised.

Andrea Rose, director of visual arts at the British Council

Tate Modern is incredibly sexy. It has become an absolute lodestone, a tourist magnet, which is a good thing because it places culture right at the heart of what Britain is about. It's stunningly popular partly because it's free, unlike its equivalents - Moma in New York, or the Pompidou Centre in Paris. People from overseas are always astonished that they don't have to pay and that does say something about us. It does express, in a single building, the importance of culture. It's almost like saying, without culture, what's the point?

Karen Wright, editor, 'Modern Painters' magazine

I think it is an astonishing success story and the building is extraordinary. However, I do think that it should try to avoid becoming complacent with the type of exhibitions it stages. There have been too many monograph exhibitions. There is a slight danger that, with all these people coming through the doors, you lose some of the excitement. Although the Turbine Hall is a difficult space to fill, the works that have been there have risen to the occasion.

Antony Gormley, sculptor

It has relocated the centre of contemporary art right opposite two very powerful places: St Paul's Cathedral and the City of London. It is a very powerful building in its own right. Tate Modern also indicates there has been a radical change in British engagement with contemporary visual culture. We are turning our back on the way we have seen ourselves as a heritage culture. That is fantastic and long overdue. And let us have more natural light in there.

Loyd Grossman, chairman of the National Museums of Liverpool and former chairman of the Campaign for Museums

Tate Modern has changed the landscape of an interesting part of London that needed attention and regeneration and ... given it new purpose and meaning. You have to ask the questions: Do a lot of people go there? Yes. Do they see great art? Yes. Do they get something out of it? Yes. It is patronising to suggest people are going there just because it is some kind of theme park.

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