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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 May, 2005, 08:10 GMT 09:10 UK
Q&A: Sir Nicholas Serota
Sir Nicholas Serota
Serota says the gallery has brought "a new audience to modern art"
London's Tate Modern art gallery celebrates its fifth anniversary on 11 May. The anniversary of the public opening will be marked on 12 May.

Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota talks to BBC News about how the Tate Modern has brought art to a wider audience, and offers his views on the museum's future direction.

What have been the gallery's triumphs since opening?

I think its greatest achievement is to make London part of a European art world. Tate Modern and Tate Britain have contributed to a change in the way that Britain sees art, and the way the world sees Britain.

We thought that we would get three million visitors in the first year and then drop back to two million, and we would have been pleased with that number. But to stay at over four million each year has been remarkable.

What is the Tate Modern's appeal?

The building is an accessible, democratic space - impressive but not oppressive.

It has attracted a new audience to modern art and is of particular appeal to young people, who come as much for the building and its atmosphere as to look at the collection. In 2004, 60% of Tate Modern's visitors were under 35.

What lessons have been learned?

How important it is that museums should be accessible to all. We were particularly fortunate that the government, under Chris Smith, provided enough funding to enable Tate Modern to be free. This has been a major contribution to its success.

What is the museum's current status in the world of contemporary art?

In terms of visitors, it is the most popular museum of modern art in the world.
Sir Nicholas Serota next to exhibit at Tate Modern
The Tate Modern attracts more than four million visitors each year

This puts it ahead of the Centre Pompidou in Paris (3.5 million visitors a year) and the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1 million visitors from November 2004 to March 2005), the Guggenheim in New York (just under 1 million visitors a year) and Guggenheim Bilbao (900,000 visitors a year).

Tate's collection is one of the four most important collections of modern art in the world. We are anxious to maintain its status and we recently launched a campaign to raise a collection endowment to enable us to continue to make major acquisitions.

Where will the Tate Modern go from here?

Much of the potential of Tate Modern still remains to be developed. Some of this promise will eventually be realised by our project Completing Tate Modern over the next five years.

We plan to develop the derelict areas to the south of the Turbine Hall, currently occupied by an electricity substation, and create a new building to the south designed by Herzog & de Meuron.

I believe that the experience of contemporary art can provide insights into ourselves and into our culture

This will provide new kinds of display space for media such as photography, film, video and digital art, improved facilities for visitors, and spaces for learning and for our younger visitors.

Our aim is to establish a cultural quarter of international significance at Bankside and achieve a better integration of Tate Modern into its surrounding community - improving access and allowing the regenerative impact of Tate Modern to spread further southwards.

What are your predictions for contemporary art as a genre?

Public interest in all aspects of visual culture is greater than ever before, particularly for new media such as photography, video and digital art.

I believe that the experience of contemporary art can provide insights into ourselves and into our culture.

Tate Modern
The gallery is situated on London's South Bank

For some people that experience will be more vivid where the language employed is the common language of conversation, or the vision closely related to what is seen in the street, on television or in the newspapers.

Each encounter will be personal, shaped by our own histories, identities and experience. If a work of art is capable of provoking such a response then its value is immeasurable.

Which is your favourite exhibit and why?

It depends on the day: one day it will be the recently acquired Four Seasons by Cy Twombly, another it will Bruce Nauman's installation Raw Materials in the Turbine Hall.

On another it could be Doris Salcedo's eloquent tribute to the 'disappeared' from her native Colombia, or Picasso's Three Dancers.

What artworks would you really like to be displayed at the Tate Modern?

We need to be able to show exhibitions by the great masters, such as Mondrian or Malevich, as well as new work by the youngest artists of today and work by established figures such as Katharina Fritsch, Luc Tuymans and Jeff Wall.

What has surprised you about people's response to art at the gallery?

The Unilever Series of commissions for the Turbine Hall has been unexpectedly popular with more than 9.5 million people visiting the installations by Bourgeios, Muņoz, Kapoor, Eliasson and Nauman.

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