In the land of King Arthur, towards the setting sun: Tate gallery, St Ives

A third branch of Britain's leading modern art gallery opens, with emphasis on the St Ives artistic community


The Tate Gallery St Ives, the museum's new exhibition space in Cornwall, will be officially opened by the Prince of Wales on Wednesday 23 June. It is a marriage between the local community and London, the county council having provided the site and raised the construction costs of £3.3 million, including substantial funds contributed by private donations, while the Tate Gallery is lending some seventy works of art, initially drawn from its collection of the schools of Newlyn and St Ives. As observers have come to expect from Nicholas Serota's programme of "New Displays", those works of art will be changed at regular intervals, partly to maintain the freshness of the new museum, but also so that the main rooms in Millbank will not be permanently deprived of works by Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Christopher Wood, Alfred Wallis and other artists who will feature prominently in the launch exhibition at St Ives.

The building is a handsome three-storey structure designed by Eldred Evans and David Shaley, who were responsible for the spectacular law courts in Truro and are creating a new library for Jesus College, Cambridge. Their site, which backs against a cliff face and looks across Porthmeor Beach, is a former gas works and they allude to its drum in the glazed rotunda which lies at the heart of the building. Views from the five galleries in which works of art will be exhibited have not changed since they were painted by members of the St Ives community more than sixty years ago. Special decorations include a large stained glass window designed by Patrick Heron for the entrance hall, a banner painted by Terry Frost and hanging on the stairwell, and a sculpture by Alison Wilding which will be placed in the museum in October. Her inclusion suggests that the Tate Gallery St Ives has ambitions which stretch well beyond the local school of artists.

Michael Toobey, former keeper of the Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield, has been appointed curator of the Tate Gallery St Ives. His position covers responsibility for the Barbara Hepworth Museum which opened in St Ives in 1976, a year after the distinguished sculptor's death, and was acquired by the museum in 1980. With his small staff, he will be devising an exhibition schedule which must balance the interests of the local audience with those of a wider market if he is to meet his initial target of 75,000 visitors per annum. Judging from the experience of the Tate Gallery, Liverpool, which attracted 660,000 in 1992, that figure should be comfortably surpassed by Toobey's proposed policy of changing displays. Minor adjustments will be announced three times a year and a major rotation of the collection, which may introduce international masters such as Mondrian and Mark Rothko, will take place in October 1994. Special studies are being devised around Barbara Hepworth's surgical paintings and drawings (26 June-19 September), Terry Frost's "Black and White Movement (1953)" (20 October-9 January 1994), a kinetic sculpture by Brian Wynter (22 January-17 April 1994) and Paul Nash's "Way of the Megaliths (1935)" (30 April-24 September 1994).


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