BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  Entertainment: Arts
Front Page 
UK Politics 
TV and Radio 
New Media 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Tuesday, 30 October, 2001, 08:08 GMT
Tate galleries' success story
Ladies of the Lake by Peter Lelys
Tate Britain: Houses Ladies of the Lake by Peter Lelys
Tate Britain opens a 32m centenary development to the public on Thursday. BBC News Online's Helen Bushby looks at the Tate's progress over the past 100 years.

Britain's world-famous Tate galleries began life on the banks of the River Thames in London more than 100 years ago.

The original gallery - the National Gallery of British Art - was the brainchild of sugar magnate Henry Tate, who offered his art collection to the nation.

Tate persuaded the government to agree to commission and run the building in 1894, and his efforts paid off three years later when the brand new gallery opened at Millbank.

Tate Britain
Tate Britain was the first Tate gallery built
Seven galleries boasted some of the nation's finest art, but Sir Henry Tate, who was knighted in 1898, had set his sights high.

He provided plans for an extension, and two years later he got his wish when a further nine galleries were added.

The next nine years saw the gallery build on its reputation and continue to attract visitors, before it opened its doors yet again to another valuable art collection.

It was the ideal choice to house the Turner Collection - and by 1909 an extension developed specially for it was added, and paid for by the connoisseur Joseph Duveen.

Tate Modern
Tate Modern opened in May 2000
Going from strength to strength, it also formed the national collection of international modern art in 1917, and new galleries for the modern international collection were built and opened in 1926.

The gallery's central sculpture galleries were also added in 1937, introducing a domed octagon to the building which was designed to emphasise its centre.

The ever-expanding gallery did not grow for some time after this - but by 1979 it was decided that a new extension was needed.

It filled the final quarter of the original rectangular site, expanding onto the site of the adjacent disused Queen Alexandra Hospital.


The gallery appeared to be complete - and full.

But by 1992, the Tate's trustees had other ideas, and they announced their plan to split its London collection between two sites.

Tate Britain was to occupy the whole of the building at Millbank, and be devoted to British art from 1500 to the present day.

It opened in March 2000, and plans were already in place to expand it with a further 10 galleries by November 2001 - this was because it could display only 15% of its collection.

Madonna is to present the Turner Prize 2001
The second gallery, Tate Modern, on the opposite side of the Thames, was housed in the converted shell of the Bankside Power Station.

Boosted by 54m of lottery cash, it opened in May 2000, accompanied by a flurry of media attention.

Crowds flocked to see its displays of international modern art from 1900 to the present day.

Tate Britain, meanwhile, also hit headlines as it continued to hold the controversial Turner Prize, which was instrumental in bringing artists including Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin to the public's attention.


In April, it was announced that a new library was also to be built there, hosting thousands of letters, photographs and papers relating to British artists.

The gallery also got a new look, and displays were temporarily organised by theme rather than by date, while some rooms were devoted to individual major British artists including Cruikshank, Barbara Hepworth and Howard Hodgkin.

Tate Britain secured yet another coup when it announced in October that pop diva Madonna would present 2001's Turner Prize on 9 December.

The Turner Prize was established in 1984 and offers a prize of 20,000 to a "British artist under 50 for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work".

Tate Britain's Stephen Deuchar (R) and Tate's Nicholas Serota
Proud directors: Tate Britain's Stephen Deuchar (R) and Tate's Nicholas Serota
The shortlist for the prize is often seen to have favoured avant-garde, outlandish and daring work - and usually produces controversy.

Madonna also handed over one of her treasured artworks - Frida Kahlo's Self Portrait with Monkey - to Tate Modern.

But London did not keep all of the art-world's action to itself - Tate Liverpool opened in 1988 in a converted warehouse in the Albert Dock.

It houses the National Collection of Modern Art in the North of England and is the largest gallery of modern and contemporary art outside London.


Tate St Ives, in Cornwall, opened in June 1993 offering an introduction to modern art. It also manages the Barbara Hepworth Museum and sculpture garden.

Further plans are afoot for London, however.

By Spring 2002 the two Tates should be joined by a new pier at Millbank, providing a river link between them.

The Tate website says the go-ahead has already been given, and that the project is being supported by the Government Office for London, the Millennium Commission, the City of Westminster, Tate and Tishman Speyer Properties.

Using a "hoppa" ferry as well as traditional cruise boats, it is expected that the new attraction will attract more than 150,000 people per year.

See also:

04 Oct 01 | Arts
Madonna hands over prized art
24 Jan 01 | Business
Business sponsors boost UK arts
23 Mar 00 | UK
Artists unveil Tate Britain
20 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Ten-year arts plan unveiled
11 Feb 01 | UK
New targets for libraries
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Arts stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Arts stories