Recession shatters Tate's bid to pay for glass box extension

Gallery insists plans will go ahead despite raising no money since March

Jerome Taylor,Arifa Akbar
Friday 18 September 2009 00:00 BST
(Herzog & de Meur)

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The Tate says it has secured just £4m of funding in the past 12 months towards building its flagship "Tate 2" glass gallery on the south bank of the Thames – but insists that it will continue with the ambitious development despite a £140m funding shortfall.

Bosses at Britain's largest group of galleries came out fighting yesterday after what has been a difficult year by announcing a string of new shows including upcoming exhibitions of Gaugin, Picasso and Chris Ofili.

But news of the new exhibitions was overshadowed on the day by the disclosure that only £4m of fresh donations had been received towards the redevelopment of the Tate Modern, which will add a new 65-metre building to the existing former power station and increase display space by 60 per cent.

So far the Tate has raised just £74m towards the project, one-third of the total £215m target – and the same amount it had acquired back in March when planning permission for the redevelopment was first granted.

A further £50m from the Government towards the project is also in jeopardy after Whitehall chiefs discovered a £100m hole in the budget for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and warned that some projects would have to be scaled back.

At the release of their annual report yesterday, gallery chiefs remained bullish, assuring art fans that the building work on the Tate Modern's extension would begin next year and that the Government would provide the funding it had promised.

Lord Browne of Madingley, the chairman of the Tate trustees, said he believed that the money from the DCMS would still arrive. "We are highly confident that the money promised by the government will be given to us," he said. "We intend to start building next year, subject to the amount of money we have raised. We expect to have [Tate 2] built there by 2012. We have raised a third and we are still actually fundraising."

Sir Nicholas Serota, director of Tate Galleries, said he had received "assurances" from the Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw that the Government would continue to fund the new development. But he admitted that donations, particularly from philanthropists, had dried up in the past year because of the recession.

"The world in September 2009 is not the world it was in September 2008," he said. "During that year it was very difficult to raise finds for capital projects. For the first six months, those people who were capable of giving us money, really did not want to talk to us and did not know how much they were worth."

Sir Nicholas added that he saw a "growing confidence" among donors. "I'm in discussion with some people who are more than capable of making large gifts," he said. "We would not be standing here saying we will start work [on Tate 2] in 2010 if we were not confident about getting the money."

But while cash donations have dried up during the economic downturn, people have continued to donate works of art to the museum. Yesterday's annual report revealed that the Tate has acquired £96.7m worth of works for its collections during the year, including £64m of gifts from artists and collectors.

David Hockney donated three works, including his largest painting to date – Bigger Trees Near Warter. A total of 589 pieces were acquired by the Tate and a further 1,126 were acquired in partnership with the National Galleries of Scotland.

Portrait of the artist as an inspiration

Slated to open in September 2010, 'Gauguin: Maker of Myth' will be the first show dedicated to the French post-impressionist's work in the capital for more than 50 years. A pioneer of modernism, Gauguin's work was seen as a radical departure from the more in vogue impressionism of the time and went on to influence artists such as Picasso. He travelled extensively and was enormously influenced by the artistic traditions of tribes in Africa and the south Pacific. Highlights will include a room dedicated to his self portraits such as Self-portrait with Manau tu papau. Yesterday a spokesman for the Tate said: "Gauguin's life has for generations epitomised the idea of the artist as romantic bohemian, looming as large as his art in the public imagination. This exhibition will challenge commonly held assumptions about the artist and his practice."

An Ofili big show

The Tate is putting together the first mid-career exhibition of Afro-Caribbean artist Chris Ofili, who took the art world by storm in the late 1990s with a series of controversial exhibitions – most noticeably his 1997 contribution to the 'Sensation' tour comprising paintings made using of elephant dung. His most controversial work The Holy Virgin Mary depicted a black Mary surrounded by "blaxploitation" images and female genitalia.

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