Notebook: Have You Seen the Loos in the New Extension to Tate Britain? Magnificent
Millard, Rosie, New Statesman (1996)
We had all been there before. Lines of journalists in the corridor, corresponding wellington boots and hard hats in the boardroom, everyone in shapeless yellow tabards, being solemnly led out to the building site. We could have been at Tate Modern, or Walsall, or the Royal Opera House. There was a year, somewhere back in Blair's first term, when the Lottery was uncapped and when every arts institution had a story beginning with hard hats and ending with champagne. This in fact was at the National Gallery, which is catching up with its own [pounds sterling]21m project to revamp its East Wing.
The National applied for Lottery funding for the project last year, but unfortunately the application came at the same time as its successful appeal to "save" Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks. Two big Camelot pay days at once would have seemed excessive. So the Lottery rejected the application, at which point the family of that nice Mr Getty stepped in with ten million one-ers. Some [pounds sterling]7m has been raised in addition. That just leaves the Lottery to cough up an extra [pounds sterling]4m, which doesn't seem very arduous.
After all, the country needs lavatories in its national institutions. Have you seen the loos at the new extension to Tate Britain? Magnificent. There are no plans under the East Wing project to extend or refurbish any galleries within the National, but it is all about public amenities for the gallery's 4.5 million visitors annually. As the National Gallery's sanguine director, Charles Saumarez Smith, plaintively explained: "All the national collections inherited largely Victorian institutions designed only for the experience of looking at paintings, and nothing else. …