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Thursday, 21 June, 2001, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Search starts for Tate Modern chief
Lars Nittve and Nicholas Serota
Lars Nittve and Sir Nicholas at Tate Modern's opening
The director of the Tate Modern in London is leaving Britain to return to Sweden, sparking speculation about a successor.

Lars Nittve has overseen the establishment of Tate Modern, which has just celebrated its first birthday, as the world's most popular modern art museum.

Lars Nittve
Nittve: "A little bit homesick"
"After some hard thinking and a tough decision I decided to go," Mr Nittve said, citing homesickness as one of his reasons.

The Stockholm-born 47-year-old is to return to direct the Moderna Museet where he was senior curator from 1986 to 1989.

Tate Trustees will now begin the search for a successor both in Britain and abroad.

The successful candidate, to take over in November, will need to work closely with Sir Nicholas Serota who is the overall director of the Tate.

Sir Nicholas is generally considered the mastermind behind the Tate Modern phenomenon.

Adrian Searle, The Guardian's art critic told BBC News Online that he would "hate to speculate" as to the successor, but added that it matters "a great deal" who they choose.

Mr Searle said that now that the Tate has achieved a high public profile it could turn more attention to its exhibitions.

Though Tate Modern's permanent collection has been popular, its exhibitions, with the exception of the massive sculptures by Juan Muņoz and Louise Bourgeoise, have not been.

"Tate Modern was supposed to be an art gallery, but they've got a tourist attraction," said Mr Searle.

Tate Modern
Tat Modern has been an unreserved success
"What Tate Modern needs is somebody who has a high international profile, who can lead a team and really understands contemporary art."

He admitted that there are very few people in Britain who fit that bill, and thinks that the search will almost certainly be international.

Time Out's art critic Sarah Kent agreed that foreign candidates will be considered, though she is less sure that the job is all that desirable.


"Nittve was a very charming and highly qualified man," she said.

"But I can't envisage what his role was, and I don't think that he had much independence."

The gallery employs high profile curators who take care of the hanging and choosing of work.

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

One of the keys to its success with the public has been its exhibiting of art works by themes.

Tate Modern
The gallery is in a former power station
To the onlooker the Tate Modern director's role seems to be to excite interest in the gallery and conduct relations with the public and the media.

There is speculation that Julia Peyton Jones, who revived the fortunes of the Serpentine Gallery in London, could be a possible candidate.

But it is equally possible that a highly qualified, less well-known candidate could present themselves from abroad.

And it is a possibility, if remote, that Mr Nittve would not be replaced and Sir Nicholas would take control of Tate Modern as well as general directorship of the Tate.

Radio 4's Front Row looks at one year of Tate ModernOver-rated?
Radio 4's Front Row debates the Tate
AUDIO/VIDEO  real 14k
See also:

24 Apr 01 | Arts
Madonna art joins Tate show
02 Apr 01 | Arts
Tate team wins major award
06 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Tate Modern beats Dome
11 May 01 | Arts
London's 'cathedral of cool'
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