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EDITIONS
Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK
Tyne 'art factory' opens
The Baltic, Gateshead
The Baltic is described as an "art factory"
A new art space dubbed the "Tate Modern of the north" is opening on Thursday after 10 years and 46m spent in development.

The Baltic, housed in an old flour mill on the banks of the Tyne, is one of the biggest centres for contemporary art in Europe, and aims to put the north east of England on the art world's map.

Baltic director Sune Nordgren
The director, Sune Nordgren, says the exhibitions are "eclectic"
It was being officially opened by a spectacular party on Thursday before the public were let in for the first time at 0001 BST on Saturday.

It is described as an "art factory" rather than a gallery because it has studios as well as exhibition spaces, has no permanent collection and is designed to be somewhere that people can create art as well as see it.

The setting - using the shell of a derelict industrial riverside building - has drawn comparisons to the Tate Modern in London, which was built inside a disused power station and has become one of the UK's most popular attractions.

The Baltic aims to bring a similar kudos to the north east, and is at the centre of the Newcastle and Gateshead bid to become European City of Culture in 2008.

Its director, Swede Sune Nordgren, said he was not worried about the visitor numbers - as long as people enjoyed it.

The Baltic, Gateshead
The building stood derelict for 20 years
"I'm very concerned about every visitor coming to Baltic having a very good experience, and I'm realistic enough to realise that the core audience of this place will be regional people coming over and over again," he said.

The Baltic is also the first institution to get a lottery grant to cover its running costs for the first five years. Some 33.4m of its 46m budget came from the lottery.

The opening exhibitions will include a 9.5-metre (31-ft) scale model of the Tyne Bridge and a room with rows of gongs.

"It's very eclectic. It's a mixture of all kinds of art, and we wanted to show the full potential of this building," Mr Nordgren said.

The first art fans to visit will also see photographs and video installations by Turner Prize-nominated sisters Jane and Louise Wilson, who described the new centre as "fantastic".

Exhibition at The Baltic
Opening exhibits include a room of gongs
"People are really pleased that there is something here," Jane said.

"For a long time, you've had great developments in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham, and nothing's really happened in Newcastle."

The building had an "iconic presence", Louise added.

There will be free admission to the centre, which has 3,000 square metres of art space, including five galleries, studios, a cinema/lecture space, a library and archive.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rosie Millard
"It's taken eight years to complete the transformation"
Paul Collard, Newcastle and Gateshead Initiative
"We're putting ourselves on a world map here"

Click here to go to Tyne
See also:

11 Jul 02 | England
11 Jul 02 | England
17 May 02 | UK
25 Jan 02 | England
03 Apr 01 | Entertainment
12 Oct 01 | Entertainment
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