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Last Updated: Friday, 2 May, 2003, 17:21 GMT 18:21 UK
Art vanishes from Tate website

By Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Screen grab from Tate Modern website
Visitors were met with messages saying many images were unavailable

Visitors to a new Tate Modern website claiming to include "a complete inventory" of the art in its gallery were unable to see a large number of its pictures when it launched on Friday.

The Tate claimed its new "virtual tour" would let internet users around the world see the entire permanent collection from its London gallery plus loaned exhibits.

But just hours after it was launched with a fanfare by comedian Michael Palin, almost four out of 10 pictures were replaced with a message saying they were unavailable for copyright reasons.

The Tate said some of the images were missing because of a technical problem, but admitted that 23% of the collection would never appear on the Explore Tate Modern site.

Their launch announcement said: "For the first time on the website, Tate is including works that have been lent by other museums and collections, giving visitors a complete inventory of art on display."

But visitors found paintings including Monet's Water Lilies and works by Picasso, Klimt and Henry Moore replaced by the message, while the details of some rooms would not load at all.

About 37% of the paintings in the rooms that did load were replaced by the copyright message at 1700 on Friday.

Explore Tate Modern offers the chance to take in the contents of one of the world's most talked-about galleries, in full and glorious detail
Michael Palin

A spokeswoman for the website said there was a problem transferring some images from the servers of BT, who developed the website, to the Tate.

"It should only be that 23% of the images that are not available, not 37%," she said.

If the figure was higher than 23%, Tate Modern's "rationale for creating it would have been fairly futile, really", she said.

"If you look at the site, you'll find that the images that are available far outweigh those that aren't.

"It is designed so that anybody, even if they can never get to the Tate Modern, can experience the majority of the gallery in their living room."

The problem with the servers should be fixed by Saturday, she added.

Global resource

A launch statement from Michael Palin said: "Thanks to this new initiative between BT and Tate, I'll be able to travel the world and Tate Modern at the same time.

"Explore Tate Modern offers the chance to take in the contents of one of the world's most talked-about galleries, in full and glorious detail, without leaving my laptop."

The Tate said its entire collection from the gallery's 55 rooms would be on the website, and that it was designed as a resource for "classrooms, libraries and sitting rooms" everywhere, the Tate said.

The homepage is supposed to "echo the vast space of Tate Modern's famous Turbine Hall" and users are able to choose their destination from a 3D floor plan.

Text details of the artworks and artists were also included - even if the image was not - as were audio descriptions.

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