The Tate Modern extension

Tate hopes for capital gains

Rob Sharp, Issue 116/06, p6, 01.06.2016
With a £260m Tate Modern extension opening this month, a redevelopment at Tate St Ives and new directors at two sites, it is all change for the organisation
This is a big year for Tate as it adapts to senior staff changes and major infrastructure projects, including the launch of the £260m extension to London’s Tate Modern this month.

Caroline Collier, the director of partnerships and programmes, says: “Tate Modern has had a big effect on the way visual arts are perceived and enjoyed, in the UK and beyond, so it’s much more than a London event; the impact of Tate Modern has been much wider.”

She says the Tate’s growing size helps serve Plus Tate – the knowledge, skills and resources network that brings the organisation together with cultural institutions across the UK. Some of these will be participating in the events marking the opening of the Tate Modern extension, which will involve three days of talks, performances, screenings, installations and various other events from 17 June.

Money well spent

“The benefits of joining Plus Tate have made it money extremely well spent,” says Fiona Bradley, the director of the Fruitmarket Gallery, in Edinburgh. “It offers us the networking, and the sense you have access to Tate, as well as the very practical help that belonging to the network affords.

“Attending symposiums and directors’ days helps to focus on the external demands on the organisation, such as audiences and digital innovation. The quality of debate is high. And it gives an opportunity for my colleagues to have access to other people who belong to the Plus Tate network.”

The Tate’s reach will be further extended by the Tate Exchange initiative, which will operate in research and learning spaces across two floors of the new building to serve staff, visitors and visual-arts professionals.

The new space will also host projects co-programmed with external associates including community organisations, as well as museums and galleries.

“It picks up on something that is very much in the air for co-curating and co-commissioning, and people wanting a more active role within galleries and museums,” says Collier.

The extension project will expand Tate Modern’s gallery space by 60%, which is expected to boost visitor numbers by as much as one million a year (there were 5.7 million visits in 2014-15). A new app, digital displays and an interactive timeline will guide people around the extension and provide information on art, artists and artistic movements.

At Tate St Ives, meanwhile, an extension that will be completed next year will almost double the gallery space. This will allow the space to exhibit works by modernist artists from Cornwall, along with work by emerging artists. It will also enable more international artwork to be displayed.

No further plans

Tate is not planning any other major building projects or venues.

“We work through a collaborative model,” says Collier, ruling out the creation of “Tate franchises”.

These developments come at a time of changes at a senior level for Tate and other London museums, with new directors having recently joined Tate Modern and Tate Britain, as well as the National Gallery and British Museum, all since last year.

Alex Farquharson, who took the role of director at Tate Britain late last year, is expected to outline his strategy for the gallery later this year.

Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota “is not leaving at the moment”, says Collier.

“The trustees talk about this quite a lot and having a really good team in place
is obviously important in all the succession planning,” Collier adds.
Next step
“I always have this dream that when I leave Tate, I will go and work in a really small institution, miles from London, caring for a fine collection, working with artists, realising exhibitions and, of course, dealing with a very particular kind of an audience. I can dream.”

Tate director Nicholas Serota speaking on BBC2’s Artsnight on 13 May
Tate in numbers
Total visitors (four sites)              7.9 million
Twitter followers                         1.4 million
Value of purchased art                £4.2m
Total income                              £221.5m
Operating expenditure                £88.2m