Tate Britain reopens in ‘triumph for private philanthropy’

Tate Britain reopened today after a three-year £45m refurbishment, which has been described by Tate chairman Lord Browne, as ‘a new age of British philanthropy’ and a funding ‘milestone’. 

The central spiral staircase in the rotunda, Tate Britain - Courtesy Caruso St John and Tate

Source: Hélène Binet

The central spiral staircase in the rotunda, Tate Britain – Courtesy Caruso St John and Tate

95 per cent of funding came from the private sector – but rather than businesses a host of trusts and foundations, as well as individual donors and Tate members gave support.

Lord Browne was at pains to say that these donors were ‘working to enhance cultural enhancement with almost no return’.

This wouldn’t have been possible working with businesses he says -‘Business doesn’t do philanthropy’.

Lower level rotunda, Tate Britain - Courtesy Caruso St John and Tate

Source: Hélène Binet

Lower level rotunda, Tate Britain – Courtesy Caruso St John and Tate

Against a backdrop of limited public funding other institutions will have to follow suit for major projects according to Browne who says the reopening of the Tate Modern is a ‘triumph for private philanthropy’.

At Tate the phased refurbishment, led by architect Caruso St John, saw the transformation of the oldest part of the Grade II listed Millbank building in May, when nine new galleries were opened to accommodate a new curatorial approach showing the chronology of British art from 1545 to the present day.

Now the main entrance on Millbank has been opened up and a striking spiral staircase built, which sits in the rotunda area and breaks through the ground floor to a subterranean level and helps connect a series of reclaimed spaces.

The Henry Moore Gallery at Tate Britain - Courtesy Caruso St John and Tate

Source: Hélène Binet

The Henry Moore Gallery at Tate Britain – Courtesy Caruso St John and Tate

One of these is the reopened Rex Whistler Restaurant, which features a panoramic Whistler mural that has been restored, having been damaged in the 1928 flood that saw the Thames breach its banks and flood many basement buildings in the area.

It leads off of the bottom of the staircase, as does the new Djanogly Café, which now opens on to an exterior terrace.

Tables and seating throughout the refurbished spaces have been designed by Caruso St John in tribute to Arts and Crafts designers whose work would have been contemporary when the gallery was first built in 1897.

The new Members Room at Tate Britain - Courtesy Caruso St John and Tate

Source: Hélène Binet

The new Members Room at Tate Britain – Courtesy Caruso St John and Tate

Adam Caruso says he was inspired by the likes of Edward William Godwin, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Adolph Loos, and worked with British and German manufacturers.

 Other new spaces include education facilities and a dedicated schools entrance and reception underneath the Millbank Entrance steps, as well as the Archive Gallery, which features temporary displays from the Tate’s archive of artists’ letters and ephemera.

A circular balcony at the top of the Rotunda had been closed to visitors since 1920, but has now been opened up, giving the best view of the spiral staircase below.

The Grand Saloon - Courtesy Caruso St John and Tate

Source: Helene Binet

The Grand Saloon – Courtesy Caruso St John and Tate

The balcony houses a new café and bar for Tate Members and the Grand Saloon, which was previously a directors’ office. It has views overlooking the Thames and will now be used for seminars and events.   

Site-specific commissions have been incorporated into the fabric of the refurbishment.

Richard Wright has designed handmade glass and leading for the eastern window in the Millbank foyer and Alan Johnston has created a ceiling drawing in the Djanogly Café.

The new Djanogly café - Courtesy Caruso St John and Tate

Source: Hélène Binet

The new Djanogly café – Courtesy Caruso St John and Tate

Nicole Wermers has designed a double-ended spoon for use in the Djanogly  Café, Members Room and the Rex Whistler restaurant, a design which we overhear is so popular the spoons are already being stolen.

A wayfinding solution across both phases of the refurbishment has been designed by Whybrow Associates and John Morgan Studio.

Whybrow says the first phase of the scheme, which launched in May, ‘had to be factual yet understated, guiding the visitor effortlessly through the enfilade of chronological gallery spaces using hand-written floor-applied threshold dates to mark moments in time.’

The second phase which launches today sees the implementation of a wayfinding system around the Millbank entrance and Rotunda.

Whybrow says it is ‘a holistic and comprehensive wayfinding scheme across the gallery with schematic maps and directional signs, which delineate directions to both temporary exhibitions and permanent collections’.

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