10m Visitors Prove Modern Art Is Alive and Kicking at the Tate; the Liverpool Gallery Is Celebrating 18 Years and 10m Visitors. Alan Weston Reports

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Byline: Alan Weston

OVER its 18-year existence, Tate Liverpool has played host to a pile of bricks and a re-creation of a Tesco supermarket.

It also had people queuing around the block for its most popular exhibition on the surrealist Salvador Dali.

Now another milestone has been passed, as yesterday the gallery welcomed the 10 millionth visitor at the Albert Dock.

The gallery's present status as home to the national collection of modern art in the North of England, and one of the country's leading visual arts venues, is a far cry from when it rose out of nothing in a decaying dockside warehouse.

Now it consistently welcomes around 600,000 visitors a year, making it the most visited modern art gallery in the UK outside London.

Its present director, Christoph Grunenberg, said: "The occasion of the 10 millionth visitor is a fantastic reason for us to celebrate. The choice was completely democratic and we tried to be accurate about it.

"Visitors from the regions are incredibly important to us. While 30% of our visitors come from the Merseyside area, other regions like Cheshire, Manchester and North Wales are also very important, while 10% travel from overseas.

"It's absolutely critical that Liverpool has a thriving arts scene, and the Tate can be very proud of what it contributes to the regeneration of the city."

The gallery's plans include boosting its international reputation. The recent Summer of Love exhibition on the art of the psychedelic era has been shown in Frankfurt, and is opening in Vienna in May.

Although could not reveal what they are yet, Mr Grunenberg promised some "block- buster" exhibitions for Capital of Culture year in 2008, which will also mark Tate Liverpool's 20th birthday.

Yesterday's 10 millionth visitor was maths teacher Lilian Dunlop, 63, who came from her home in Manchester with her granddaughter Gemma Bantham to enjoy a day out in the city. …