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‘Breathtakingly Beautiful’ Tate St Ives Named Museum of the Year

Judges described the gallery’s GBP£20 million redevelopment by Jamie Fobert Architects as ‘deeply intelligent’ and a ‘profound experience’

Tate St Ives. Courtesy: Art Fund

Tate St Ives. Courtesy: Art Fund

Tate St Ives. Courtesy: Art Fund

Tate St Ives gallery in Cornwall has scooped fundraising charity Art Fund’s annual Museum of the Year prize. The award comes with GBP£100,000, making it the world’s biggest museum award. The gallery reopened last October after major redevelopment works lasting 18 months, which cost GBP£20 million. Art Fund director Stephen Deuchar described the gallery extension, designed by Jamie Fobert Architects, as ‘deeply intelligent and breathtakingly beautiful.’

Tate St Ives’s artistic director Anne Barlow was presented with the prize by artist Isaac Julien and Andria Zafirakou – recently named the World’s Best Teacher – at a ceremony last night at London’s V&A. Deuchar said that Tate St Ives’s extension, which doubled its existing gallery space, set ‘the perfect stage for a curatorial programme that is at once adventurous, inclusive and provocative.’ Another judge, artist Melanie Manchot described walking through the new gallery as a ‘profound experience.’ Manchot said that the extension was not merely an addition, but a reimagining: ‘now the whole building, the galleries, the views all feel different – they have been given a new lease of life.’

Barlow commented on the gallery’s redevelopment and award: ‘For the first time, we are now able to present the work of the iconic 20th century artists associated with St Ives alongside an ambitious contemporary art programme. It has been particularly exciting to see the success of our new Locals Pass, and we look forward to continuing our commitment to our community and to artists with the support of this significant award.’

Tate St Ives. Courtesy: Art Fund

Tate St Ives. Courtesy: Art Fund

Tate St Ives. Courtesy: Art Fund

The other shortlisted museums were London’s Postal Museum, Ferens Art Gallery in Hull (which recently underwent a GBP£5.2 million refurbishment), Glasgow Women’s Library (the only accredited museum of women’s history in the country) and Brooklands Museum in Weybridge, Surrey. The runners-up were each awarded GBP£10,000. Some criticized awarding Tate St Ives the prize as a snub to cultural institutions in the north of the country. Rosie Millard, former chair of Hull City of Culture 2017, commented on Twitter: ‘Not one member of the jury from the north. Zero.’ The 2017 prize was won by The Hepworth Wakefield in West Yorkshire.

Tate St Ives first opened its doors in 1993, occupying the site of a former gasworks by Porthmeor beach, in a building designed by Eldred Evans and David Shalev. Renovation plans were first mooted 15 years ago – to meet the gallery’s need to hold temporary exhibitions alongside its permanent collection – but local opposition to the original proposal’s removal of car parking space delayed works. The solution for Tate St Ives’s Jamie Fobert-led redevelopment was to closely consult with the local community, and instead drill 500 square metres through a hard blue Evan rock cliff-face. Deuchar said: ‘The judges admired an architect and gallery team who devoted some 12 years to this transformational change, consulting with the local community all the way.’

‘You feel the presence of this diffuse light,’ Fobert said of the new extension, speaking to frieze last October. ‘It’s about volume and presence, not streams of sunlight.’ The gallery inaugurated its new space with a solo show by Rebecca Warren, titled ‘All That Heaven Allows’ – followed by exhibitions on Patrick Heron and Virginia Woolf.

A study commissioned by Art Fund earlier this year warned that public funding to UK museums had declined by 13% over the last 10 years. A recent frieze editorial examined the precarious nature of arts funding, the future of museums in the UK and the perils of ‘efficiency’.

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