Home of British art undertakes $70 million overhaul

Wed Dec 1, 2010 12:10pm EST
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The national home of British art from the 16th century to the modern age has embarked on a major revamp of its galleries starting in 2011.

Tate Britain -- which houses works stretching from portraits of England's Queen Elizabeth I to modern art by Gilbert and George -- said this week it would spend 45 million pounds ($70 million) on new walls, roofs, floors, improving its entrance and re-hanging its collection.

Beginning next February, nine galleries in the southern and oldest part of the Tate Britain's 19th century building will be given new walls, roofs and floors, while the domed atrium at the entrance of the gallery will be opened up, with a new spiral staircase leading down to the lower level.

Under the plans, the gallery's Millbank entrance will become the public face of Tate Britain and -- for the first time since 1927 -- visitors will also be granted access to the upper level of the building.

Visitor numbers at Tate Britain have swelled by 60 percent over the past 10 years, placing high demand on the building's facilities; with that in mind, a new cafe and learning studios are being designed.

Almost two thirds of the project's budget has already been raised, much of it from private donations.

Gallery director Penelope Curtis expects the renovation to be completed by 2013.

Tate Britain is located in London. It is one of the family of four Tate galleries which display selections from the Tate Collection. Tate Britain houses collections of such notable British artists as JMW Turner, John Constable and William Blake.

The other three galleries are the Tate Modern, also in London, Tate Liverpool, in northwest England, and Tate St Ives in the southwest.

(Reporting by Isabel Coles; Editing by Paul Casciato)