Gateshead to be the cultural centre of attention

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The Independent Online

A £46M centre for contemporary art is set to transform the image of a town that is regarded as Newcastle's poor relation, it was claimed yesterday.

A £46M centre for contemporary art is set to transform the image of a town that is regarded as Newcastle's poor relation, it was claimed yesterday.

The Baltic centre development seeks to lay to rest the grimy image of Gateshead – epitomised in the cult 1971 Michael Caine film, Get Carter – and replace it with a more positive and modern perception, according to Andrea Rose, the British Council's head of visual arts and a Baltic trustee.

She told a press conference in London: "I grew up a street away from where the Baltic now is and I remember my parents desperate to get away from Gateshead, which at the time was considered the gateway to Newcastle. It is a pleasure and a privilege now to reverse not just 40 years of history but 900 years of history, and see Gateshead take prime position as a cultural centre in its own right."

The Baltic project, part of a £250m regeneration of east Gateshead, will open on 9 March 2002 after transforming a 1950s flour mill into a giant gallery covering 3,000sq metres. The huge scheme is partly funded by a £33.4m National Lottery grant.

Unveiling the first year's programme yesterday, Sune Nordgren, the gallery's Swedish director, said it would have no permanent art collections of its own. However, it will commission artists both from the north and internationally to create works. Jane and Louise Wilson, the Turner Prize-nominated twin sisters, Julian Opie (who is designing the signposts) and Antony Gormley – a household name in the region since the erection of his sculpture, The Angel of the North – are among the inaugural invited artists.

In honour of the site's former use, there will be aseries of works and performances inspired by bread, including an artist, Anne Bjerge Hansen, who will bake bread in a portable oven to distribute to visitors.

Baltic is situated next to a new music centre being designed by Norman Foster and next to the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, as part of a 15-year regeneration scheme for east Gateshead.

* The Science Mall, part of the £75m Glasgow Science Centre visitor attraction – which was forced to close a day after its official opening last week – suffered a fresh setback amid fears of a possible hazard in the building for children. Councillors delayed a decision on whether to grant the public entertainment licence yesterday, after a committee meeting heard that railings on the upper floors of the building might be wide enough for youngsters to slip through. It was due to open its doors to the public again today.

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