Page last updated at 10:39 GMT, Saturday, 28 June 2008 11:39 UK

Controversial art gallery opens

The Public, West Bromwich
The Public art gallery will charge people 7 to enter

A controversial 50m art gallery has finally opened, two years late and nearly 12m over budget.

The Public, in West Bromwich, was effectively saved by a 1.6m government grant but has provoked criticism for charging a 7 entrance fee.

One thousand residents of Sandwell borough have been offered free admission, however.

The gallery, which will focus on interactivity, said it would feature top artists and was "good value".

Adults will normally be charged 6.95 to enter the gallery while concessions will be charged 4.95. A family ticket will cost 20.

'New era'

Most art galleries in the West Midlands are free to the public.

The future of the project was put in doubt in 2006 when it went into administration and its chief executive Sylvia King was made redundant.

But government funding helped get the project back on track.

David Clarke, the gallery's programme director, defended the decision to charge people to enter.

He said: "We do have a business to run, it's a new era I think in which we will be expecting buildings like this to make their way financially."

He said it would be a similar experience to London's Tate Modern, which is free to the public but charges for special exhibitions.

He said: "What Tate Modern did was really attract an entirely new audience, people who hadn't been in a building like this maybe before.

"The scale and humanity of the spaces there I think compare very well with what we've got here."

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