Letter: Battersea home for modern art

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Sir: I am relieved to hear that that odd couple, modern art and British art, are finally considering divorce ('Splitting the Tate', 26 August), but surely it is ill-advised of them to carry on living under the same roof?

It is proposed that the Tate expand into adjacent hospital accommodation, but having waited so long for a museum of modern art (Peggy Guggenheim meant to start one in 1939, with Herbert Read as director) London deserves something better than converted nurses' barracks.

I propose a restored Battersea Power Station. A great 20th-century building would be saved into the bargain, and the surrounding wasteland could be transformed into sculpture gardens. Galleries within the building could also serve modern design better than the Design Museum or the V&A seem to manage, and some other uniquely 20th-century medium - such as film, or sound archive - could be housed there, too.

A decisive geographical separation would solve the problem of where to place modern British artists. The Tate's holdings are extensive enough that duplication would do no harm, especially as the contexts and associations would be different in the two venues.

For instance, at Battersea, Ben Nicholson's abstractions would be seen in the company of Mondrian and Malevich, whereas at the old (Millbank) site, the persistence of landscape in his work would make greater sense. Here, he would be seen with the many worthy British artists of this century who have been neglected because they fit more comfortably within a British tradition than a Modernist one.

Contemporary art would divide naturally between venues, so the tastes of curators at each institution would be inclined to work that made sense within their own collections. Obviously there is a danger of typecasting artists (the best are those that blur national and international distinctions), but I believe the split would serve for greater diversity in contemporary expression.

Yours faithfully,


London, NW3

28 August