From its beginnings in 1897, when it had but one modest site in London housing a small collection of British artworks, to the present, Tate Gallery has grown to boast four venues—London’s Tate Britain and Tate Modern, as well as Tate Liverpool and Tate St. Ives—and some 70,000 works, dating from 1500 to the present. It’s been on an often controversial roll, culminating in the June 17 debut of its Herzog & de Meuron–designed extension to the architects’ 2000 rendition of the Bankside Power Station, home of Tate Modern and its famous Turbine Hall. Earlier this year, Frances Morris, a longtime curator at Tate, was appointed the new director of Tate Modern. Over the past century ARTnews has tracked the Tate’s evolution. Below are observations from our pages.
HENRY TATE’S DONATION OF HIS COLLECTION LEADS TO A SEARCH FOR A NEW MUSEUM, SEPARATE FROM THE NATIONAL GALLERY, TO HOUSE BRITISH ART.
TATE GALLERY, AS IT WAS THEN KNOWN, OFFICIALLY OPENS AT THE MILLBANK LOCATION, WHICH WOULD UNDERGO VARIOUS EXPANSIONS AND RESTORATIONS IN THE ENSUING YEARS.
TATE GALLERY BEGINS FORMING THE NATIONAL COLLECTION OF INTERNATIONAL MODERN ART.
Nov. 14, 1931
Art lovers are experiencing considerable inconvenience, reports The Morning Post, as a result of the increasing congestion of pictures at the Tate Gallery…. Every month four or five fresh works of art are brought into the Tate Gallery and require additional space.
—“The Tate Gallery Overcrowded”
TATE GALLERY BECOMES ITS OWN INSTITUTION, INDEPENDENT OF THE NATIONAL GALLERY.
“There is no such thing in the British Isles as a modern museum building, in this sense, and it would be rash to suppose that when the Tate at last gets its long-promised northward extension we shall see a revolution in museum-construction comparable to that which has occurred, over the last hundred years, in the character of museum-art.”
—“The Tate and the Future,” by John Russell
Logical as it may have been to have the Seurat Baignade under the same roof as the National Gallery Poussins, the migration will throw upon the Tate’s twentieth-century holdings a weight which they are at present quite unable to bear. Neither in the Tate, nor in English private collections, are there European twentieth-century pictures to compare with the resources even of quite small cities like Basle, Berne and Zurich. During and after the war chance after chance of buying such pictures was let slip; those chances will not now recur.
—“Art news from London,” by John Russell
“It was in the last days of July that Mr. Norman Reid was chosen to succeed Sir John Rothenstein as Director of the Tate Gallery…. Mr. Reid has never, to my knowledge, published a line of art-criticism; nor has he committed himself, in his official capacity, to any one particular point of view. If he has strong opinions, he has loyally suppressed them. It is reasonable to infer that the selection committee counted this in his favor when his qualifications were weighed against those of Mr. [Bryan] Robertson, who has committed himself over and over again at Whitechapel, or of Mr. [Lawrence] Gowing, who has vivid and idiosyncratic opinions to offer on everything from Masaccio to Marisol.”
—“London,” by John Russell
THE TURNER PRIZE, NAMED AFTER BRITISH PAINTER J. M. W. TURNER, WHO GAVE A LARGE PORTION OF HIS INVENTORY TO THE TATE, IS FIRST AWARDED. THE PRIZE WOULD GO ON TO STIR MUCH CONTROVERSY OVER THE YEARS.
TATE LIVERPOOL OPENS IN NORTH WEST ENGLAND. IT IS THE FIRST OF THE VARIOUS SATELLITE CAMPUSES THAT WOULD COME TO FORM THE EXPANDED TATE MUSEUMS.
On January 24 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher looked around her at the rearranged rooms of London’s Tate Gallery. She smiled, commended director Nicholas Serota’s “genius,” and said, “We have a task as government to try to keep these great galleries going with the help of the taxpayers.” Then she delivered what almost sounded like a pledge of commitment. “It’s not enough to conserve the heritage. We have to enlarge it before we pass it on.”
—“Remaking the Tate,” by William Feaver
The Tate Gallery has announced plans to construct a new home for its collection of modern and contemporary art by the end of the century…. [Chairman of Tate trustees Dennis] Stevenson said the museum’s decision was prompted by several factors, including the conspicuous absence of a major modern art museum in London and an “acceptance of and concern about the criticism of the Tate that we only show a small amount of our works.”
—“Updating the Tate,” by Jeffrey Kastner
TATE MODERN, LOCATED AT A FORMER POWER STATION ON THE BANK OF THE THAMES, OPENS TO THE PUBLIC.
Britain’s Tate Gallery recently made an extraordinary public appeal, asking artists and private collectors to donate works of art in order to build up the museum’s collection . . . .
. . . The Tate is aiming to acquire 100 donated works of art to build an acquisitions fund in the range of £50 million–£100 million ($95 million–$190 million) over the next ten years.
— “Tate Acquires without Spending,” by Sarah Sennott
TATE MODERN ANNOUNCES AN EXPANSION OF ITS CURRENT SPACE BY HERZOG & DE MEURON, TO BE COMPLETED IN 2016.
[Chris] Dercon has been on the job at Tate since April 2011, and in that time he has applied his “mixing” dictum diligently. Under his aegis, the underground oil tanks of the former power station have been opened up as dedicated spaces for performance, film, and installation, and Tate has embarked on a major drive to acquire and exhibit recent African artworks as part of a more international focus. The 54-year-old Belgian has said his mission is to radically rethink the role of the museum in the 21st century. . . .
. . . He envisages the Tate of the future as a beacon of learning akin to the ancient library of Alexandria.
—“War Posters at Public Library”
A version of this story originally appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of ARTnews on page 143 under the title “Then and Now: The Transforming Tate.”