Five Years of Tate Modern ; ...but Has It Really Achieved Anything?

Article excerpt

In the five years since it opened, Tate Modern has become such an accepted part of the London landscape and international art world that it scarcely seems possible that London, alone of all capital cities, was without a proper museum of modern art until 2000.

Only 10 years ago, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's great building lay opposite St Paul's; dark, unknown, unloved and threatened with demolition.

Imaginatively converted by Herzog & de Meuron, it was recently voted the capital's favourite building. It has been seen as a symbol of regeneration of life in the capital, and has appeared in feature films, advertisements and novels.

In five years, more than 20 million visitors have ... enjoyed the experience of being in the great Turbine Hall. They have visited a range of exhibitions and events and participated in education programmes which have matched those previously available only in Paris, New York and Berlin.

Ambitious exhibitions including Warhol, Matisse, Picasso and Edward Hopper have attracted new audiences for the visual arts and the range and depth of contemporary exhibitions have been a real stimulus to an audience for the art of our own times.

New facilities, new programmes and new skills in the field of education and interpretation have enabled Tate to offer much more extensive and challenging programmes for general visitors, schools and the local community, [and] ... performances crossing boundaries between visual and other arts have been enthusiastically welcomed.

And yet in spite of these successes, which have been sustained by a combination of public and private funding and an unusually high proportion of earned income, much of the potential at Tate Modern remains to be developed.

Some of this promise will eventually be realised by our project, 'Completing Tate Modern'. This ... will ... provide much more extensive spaces for learning and community activities, a performance space and different types of gallery suited to showing a variety of art, including installation, photography, film and new media.

But in advance of the new building there is evidently a demand for a wider range of programmes, piloted in the last five years but new to Tate, notably in performance, film and photography. Our aim is to achieve a vision of a museum not limited to the traditional fine arts of painting and sculpture. And we need to ensure the programme also has a depth and texture the community of artists and scholars deserves.

Tate Modern ... will continue to surprise, challenge, delight and reward only if it continues to break new ground.

From Tate Modern: The First Five Years, to be published on Thursday by Tate, in association with Demos and the London School of Economics

Peter Blake, artist

I didn't like it at all at first. I felt all the interest in it was artificial and that all the people were going simply just to say they had been there. When Tate Britain opened its new frontage the two places are working well together and there is a balance between them. It has found its place and I have grown to like it.

I think it is a good thing that Tate Modern has helped increase a general interest in art, since much of my work has been about making art more populist and getting people involved who might not otherwise be interested.

I don't especially like the building or the enormous space of the turbine hall. It seems to be me to be about space for space's sake and so you have to have these big pieces in there to utilise the space. You can feel very lost. It is strange, but I have never gone there and come away feeling elated. But since I have never been exhibited there, I don't feel the same sense of identity that I do with Tate Britain.

Tim Marlow, director of White Cube gallery, art historian and television presenter

Tate Modern is a symptom and a cause of the strength of British art. …