Britain's Building Boom for the Arts an Unprecedented Number of Huge Projects Are under Way as London Series: It Will Reopen in December after 2-1/2 Years and $350 Million-Worth of Restoration and Expansion. More Seats and Air Conditioning Will Be Added, along with Other Improvements. BY ROB MOORE 2) MILLENNIUM DOME: A Computerized Illustration Shows the Dome, Being Built in Greenwich, South of London. BY HAYES DAVIDSON/NMEC 3) A Computer-Generated View of the New Great Court at the British Museum. BY FOSTER AND PARTNERS 4) MILLENNIUM BRIDGE: A Computer-Generated View Shows a Footbridge across the Thames That Will Link the Tate Gallery of Modern Art Area with St. Paul's Cathedral Area. BY HAYES DAVIDSON/GMG

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You could call Britain the home of time. A short distance southeast of central London is the borough of Greenwich, the reference point for world time zones. So perhaps understandably, the millennium is a big deal in Britain.

To prepare for the year 2000, the London Tourist Board estimates the city is spending $10 billion, and a big chunk of this money is earmarked for the arts. As a result, an unprecedented convergence of capital projects for major arts institutions is taking place in and around London.

Projects include the Tate Gallery's enormous new site for modern art. The British Museum, the centerpiece for big changes, is restoring its central courtyard. And the Royal Opera House has nearly completed an expansion project. Funds are coming from a variety of sources, including the nation's Millennium Commission, the Arts Council, the national lottery, and private sources. Whatever the source, these improvements will provide an expected 30 million visitors with plenty to do when they visit London next year. In a nation where cultural organizations depend heavily on public subsidies, art institutions traditionally had to make hard adjustments to make up for the funding gap. But two events began to reverse the course: the introduction of the national lottery in 1995 and the election of Tony Blair's Labour government in 1997. Over the next three years, Mr. Blair's government plans to increase funding for the arts by 15 percent. Meanwhile, the National Lottery's funds - earmarked for "good causes" - include preparation for the millennium and other efforts that benefit the arts. It's the lottery that has supplied government money for arts capital projects, but not everyone is happy (see story at right). Critics are concerned that expensive projects, such as the Sadlers Wells Theater, which was almost entirely rebuilt, will deprive other worthy projects of funds. The $350 million revamping and expansion of the Royal Opera House also has run into criticism as an overly ambitious project. The biggest headlines have gone to the new Tate Gallery of Modern Art and the renovations at the British Museum. Both are dramatic endeavors that may greatly influence the arts and museum-going. …


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