Leading article: Art, ambition and a reality check


The Tate's redevelopment project is suitably ambitious for the world's most popular museum of modern art. The gallery is planning an 11-storey edifice to sit next to Tate Modern's Turbine Hall on London's Bankside. This will house new galleries and performance spaces. The Tate's director, Sir Nicholas Serota, has spoken of his desire to establish a "cultural quarter" in the capital in time for the 2012 Olympics.

The Tate has already attracted 7m in funding from the London Development Authority and a 5m donation from the banker John Studzinski. And yesterday the Department of Culture Media and Sport said it will stump up 50m to bankroll the plans. This will be the Government's largest capital commitment to a cultural project since the construction of the new British Library.

This announcement is a good moment to take stock. The Tate has been a stunning success in the new millennium. Tate Modern hosts an astonishing four million visitors every year. And Tate has been successful outside the capital, too. The Liverpool gallery attracts 600,000 annually. All the organisation's claims of broadening access to the arts and benefiting the national economy by attracting tourists from abroad are legitimate.

But state funding, especially on this scale, cannot be a one-way street. It is inevitable and right that the Tate will come under greater scrutiny as a result of this funding announcement. The Tate often complains about the size of its acquisition budgets. This is to be expected; all cultural organisations would like to be able to buy more works for their collections. But the Tate's pleas for more resources should be considered in the light of this additional capital funding. We should also bear in mind that less than half of the Tate's permanent collection is on display at any one time. As a result of this development, the gallery will now have lots of space in which to display its present collection.

Perhaps it is also time for the Tate to consider splitting into two separate organisations. There has been an increasing divergence in recent years between the "British" operations and its focus on international contemporary art. The two objectives no longer sit together very well. The Tate has become an unwieldy empire. And the board of trustees has shown worrying signs of complacency. The organisation's ill-advised purchase of a work by Chris Ofili, who also happened to be one of the Tate's trustees, was embarrassing.

Competition and specialisation can be as invigorating in the subsidised arts as in the commercial world. The Tate brand has a bright future. But it is time to consider whether it would be brighter still if it split up its management.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’  

Children's TV shows like Grange Hill used to connect us to the real world

Grace Dent
An Indian bookseller waits for customers at a roadside stall on World Book and Copyright Day in Mumbai  

Novel translation lets us know what is really happening in the world

Boyd Tonkin
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine