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Friday, 13 September, 2002, 02:22 GMT 03:22 UK
Saatchi gallery for County Hall
County Hall, on London's South Bank
County Hall looks across the Thames to Parliament
One of Britain's leading modern art collectors, Charles Saatchi, is to open a major gallery in County Hall, on London's South Bank.

The new gallery - right between the sites of the two Tate galleries, Tate Modern and Tate Britain - is to open in the spring of 2003 and will be devoted to modern art.

County Hall will make an interesting setting for works like Hirst's shark and Emin's bed

Charles Saatchi
The gallery plans to stage in-depth shows featuring the work of younger British artists such as Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst - as well as thematic shows and exhibitions of work by British artists of older generations.

Mr Saatchi said: "I think that new British art is the most exciting in the world and needs a dedicated showcase.

"The extraordinary rooms in County Hall will make an interesting setting for works like Hirst's shark and Emin's bed.

Charles Saatchi
Charles Saatchi: Made his fortune in advertising
"I don't want the artists I believe in having to wait until they are pensioners before the public has a chance to see their works in large scale shows."

A spokesman added: "The suitability of so many magnificent rooms with very high ceilings was paramount in selecting this venue to present contemporary art.

"The new location at County Hall will make it easier for the gallery to achieve its aim of introducing new art to a much wider audience."

The new gallery is said to be aiming for an annual visitor total of 750,000 - a very large number in museum attendance terms.

'Dramatic'

County Hall is owned by the Japanese company Shirayama - and is also an English Heritage Grade II-listed building.

It was the home of London's city authority, the Greater London Council, until it was abolished in 1986.

Director Nigel Hurst, who will oversee its day to day running, said: "We have been working closely for the last year with English Heritage and Lambeth Council to preserve the building and still give London a dramatic new art gallery.

The gallery will occupy 30,000 square feet of the main riverside building, currently home to a variety of enterprises including the London Aquarium, two hotels and several restaurants.

English Heritage has said that agreement was reached on the basis that the building's period fixtures and fittings would not be damaged - and that the gallery could be removed without damage being done to the fabric of the building.

It also houses Dali Universe, a permanent exhibition dedicated to the work of the Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali.

The planned move has been seen by some observers as a direct challenge to Tate director Nicholas Serota.

But Tate Modern, which is about a mile downriver, said it "would welcome a new museum on the South Bank".


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