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Friday, 11 May, 2001, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
First birthday for Tate Modern
Tate Modern
Tate Modern: Attracted more than five million visitors
The Tate Modern art gallery in London celebrates its first birthday on Friday.

And it has established itself as the most popular modern art museum in the world in the 12 months since it first opened its doors.

Tate Modern has changed the place of the visual arts in our culture

Sir Nicholas Serota
The art gallery, at Bankside, Southwark, attracted 5.25 million visitors, twice the number that was expected in its first year.

The 135m gallery was the third most popular tourist attraction in Britain, behind the British Museum, which drew almost six million, and the Millennium Dome, which brought in 6.5 million visitors.


Plans are now being drawn up to improve public access to the gallery over the next 10 years.

Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota said: "In the year in which Tate Modern has been operating, it has changed the place of the visual arts in our culture."

There are very few buildings which take your breath away as you walk through the door - this is one of them

Chris Smith, Culture Secretary

Sir Nicholas, speaking at a press conference to mark the first birthday, said the visitor figure for the year was "extraordinary".

He said: "It is far in excess of what we expected. It is far in excess of figures for comparable museums in Europe and America."

About 70% of the visitors were from the UK and half of those were from the London area.

Culture Secretary Chris Smith, also at the press conference, called the building an "outstanding piece of architecture".

'Outstanding achievement'

"There are very few buildings which take your breath away as you walk through the door - this is one of them.

"The way the old power station has been transformed to create a modern gallery is a major and outstanding achievement."

Tate Modern
The gallery is in a former power station
Mr Smith said the success of Tate Modern in drawing a new audience to look at modern art was "one of the great achievements of the past year".

The success of the gallery has had a positive knock-on effect for the Bankside area, and is thought to have brought in between 50m and 70m to the borough of Southwark and created about 3,000 jobs.


The gallery is thought to be worth about 100m to London as a whole.

"Having a major new cultural facility draw people into an area generates economic activity and it can be not just an artistic success but an economic success as well and that is very much to be celebrated," said Mr Smith.

Tate Modern was a success from the moment it was opened by the Queen in May last year in front of 4,000 guests.

The gallery, which does not charge for entry, attracted more than two and a half million visitors in its first five months.

Originally a power station, the building was converted by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron.

Public spaces

It holds classic international works from the past century including pieces by Warhol, Lichtenstein and Pollock.

Roy Lichtenstein's work
Roy Lichtenstein's work displayed at Tate Modern
The gallery and Southwark Council are now working on a five to 10-year plan to develop the public spaces around the museum.

Lord Rogers of Riverside has drawn up plans to allow greater access with more large public areas.

These include a piazza and the possibility of a covered area between the Tate and a nearby building.

Sir Nicholas said: "We think these plans are perfectly feasible and want them to come about through the process of negotiation and discussion."

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