Tate Britain prospers despite London bombings

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The Independent Online

Tate Britain had its most successful year since the opening of its sibling, Tate Modern, despite a fall in visitor numbers to London after last year's bombings.

A record 1.7 million people visited the original Tate gallery at Millbank, partly thanks to a promotion of its free collection. BP, which has sponsored regular re-hangs of Tate Britain's displays, has now renewed its support until 2012.

The Tate's biennial report cited success across its operation, with three of the top five most popular shows in its history taking place in the past two years.

Tate Modern's exhibition on Edward Hopper attracted nearly 430,000, making it the second most popular show after Matisse-Picasso in 2002. Another 382,000 saw the Turner Whistler-Monet show at Tate Britain, making it the fourth most visited, while Frida Kahlo at Tate Modern took fifth place with more than 369,000 visitors.

Sir Nicholas Serota, the Tate's director, and Paul Myners, the chairman, hailed the attendances as a sign of continued success during a difficult period.

Tate St Ives, in Cornwall, had more than 200,000 visitors, with another 600,000 visiting Tate Liverpool, making it the busiest modern art gallery outside London.

Popularity was matched by financial success, with the Tate generating 58 per cent of its income itself. "Uniquely among its peers, Tate raises the majority of its revenue from self-generated income," Mr Myners said.

The Tate has received art worth nearly £1m from artists in the wake of its appeal to improve its collection. Louise Bourgeois, Antony Gormley, Paula Rego and Richard Long have already donated pieces, and gifts are expected soon from artists such as Anthony Caro and Anish Kapoor.

As a consequence of severe criticism from the Charity Commission over its lack of transparency, for the first time the Tate has broken down how much it spent on new acquisitions in the past couple of years - a total of £12.2m. This includes £250,000 paid for various works by Tracey Emin, £287,327 for two pieces by Gilbert and George, £483,333 for an Anish Kapoor and £34,000 for a Martin Creed.

But, despite some major acquisitions, Sir Nicholas said there had been some terrible losses, including the sale overseas of a series of watercolours by William Blake called Blair's Grave. The system of export-stops for important works needs to be improved, he said.

The forthcoming programme includes exhibitions of William Hogarth at Tate Britain, the Chapman brothers and Peter Blake at Tate Liverpool, Francis Bacon at St Ives, and Dali at Tate Modern.

To coincide with celebrations marking the 800th anniversary of Liverpool, Tate Liverpool is hosting a show called Centre of the Creative Universe: Liverpool and the Avant-Garde.

What's on show

* TATE MODERN

Gilbert and George Retrospective with 200 works: February - May

Dali and Film: June - September

* TATE BRITAIN

William Hogarth: February - April

Photographing Britain - 1840s to the Present May - September

* TATE LIVERPOOL

Chapman Brothers: First full mid-career survey; December - March 2007

Centre of Creative Universe: Liverpool and Avant-Garde, February - September

Peter Blake: Retrospective; June - September

* TATE ST IVES

Francis Bacon in St Ives, Work by Bacon 1957-62: February - May

Brian Wilson: Art on life and music of creative force behind Beach Boys: May - September

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