As expected, the Trustees of the Tate Gallery have announced plans to divide the collection into two principal parts, building new premises to house the modern part of this new arrangement. Announced on 15 December, the intention is to create a new Tate Gallery of British Art and a new Tate Gallery of Modern Art, to be ready by the year 2000.
In the November issue of The Art Newspaper (No. 22, p.6) all but one participant in a survey of leading art world figures supported this suggestion as the best way forward for the gallery. Underlying the timing of this announcement was undoubtedly the publication of the National Lottery Bill on 16 December (see p.2). The Lottery is now likely to be operational by 1994 and all those interested in benefiting from its considerable financial fall-out will need to tender their proposals early. A project on the scale of the Tate’s present announcement would be unlikely to succeed without State funding on a considerable scale.
Immediate steps in the realisation of this plan will be: the redevelopment of the north-west quadrant of the Gallery as the first step in the creation of the Tate Gallery of British Art; the possible establishment of a temporary Tate Gallery of Modern Art, and search for a suitable new storage facility for the collections to replace the current storage space in west London.
Ultimate intentions are to house the new Tate Gallery of British Art at Millbank and to establish a new Tate Gallery of Modern Art in a new home elsewhere in London by the end of the century. While the British Gallery will provide a survey of the achievements of British art, it will also explore the interchanges between British, European and American art. Conversely, the new Modern Art galleries will show international modern art of the twentieth century from Fauvism to the present, which will include outstanding examples of British art.
An anonymous American donor has pledged $10 million towards the establishment of the British collection which will go some way towards the rebuilding in the quadrant. This will provide for over 600 square metres of new gallery space and the upgrading and air conditioning of over 1,100 further square metres. In addition 500 square metres of flexible gallery space will be created on the lower floor of the gallery.
At present the Tate is only able to show about 1,000 works at any one time out of its 5,105 paintings and sculptures (plus 30,000 works on paper). Since the 1950s visitor numbers have risen from 400,000 per annum to 1.8 million in 1992. Considerable speculation exists as to the possible location of a new permanent site for the Modern Collection and suggestions so far have included the former Battersea and Bankside power stations on the south bank of the Thames and Canary Wharf in Docklands. Money from the National Lottery and from private and public donations, will be needed to finance the building, which may cost up to £100 million.
Regarding acquisitions, the numbers of works acquired by purchase and donation (including works on paper) in each section of the collection between 1990 and 1992 are as follows: British collection, including prints and drawings, 105; modern collection, excluding prints, 170; modern prints, 313; artists’ archive, 55.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'A national gallery for the twentieth-century before the twentieth century’s done?'