Tate St Ives by Jamie Fobert Architects.

Tate St Ives by Jamie Fobert Architects. Photography © Hufton+Crow

Cornwall’s most popular gallery completes major transformation

The new Tate St Ives opens on 14 October 2017. A four-year building project has doubled the space for showing art, adding almost 600 square metres of galleries, and created spectacular new studios for learning activities. This finally gives Cornwall’s most popular gallery enough space to accommodate the quarter of a million visitors it welcomes each year – over three times the number for which it was originally designed – who bring £11 million annually to the local economy.

For the first time, Tate St Ives is now able to give a permanent presence to those iconic 20th century artists who lived and worked in the town, including Alfred Wallis, Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth, demonstrating the role of St Ives in the story of modern art. This is combined with a new programme of large-scale seasonal shows, beginning with sculptor Rebecca Warren’s first major UK exhibition.

The new gallery, sunk into the cliff alongside the original building, offers artists and curators a column-free space lit by six huge skylights. Designed by the award-winning Jamie Fobert Architects, it will allow Tate St Ives to stay open all year round for the first time, without the need to close each time the exhibitions change. With a public garden on its roof, connected to the cliff above and the beach below, the new building also adds a collection care studio, loading bay, staff offices and visitor facilities. Clad in handmade ceramic tiles with a blue-green glaze, the building is designed to reflect the changing colours of the sky and sea.

Exciting new spaces for learning activities and events have also been created to meet growing demand. Evans and Shalev, the architects of the original Tate St Ives building, returned to add a new space for hands-on workshops and family activities, a studio for visitors to explore archival and digital material about the art on display, and a spectacular glazed studio on the roof terrace with views out over the sea. The existing galleries have also been refurbished and integrated into these additions.

The original building is now dedicated to a display exploring modern art in St Ives and its relationship with the wider world. It offers a chronological overview of 20th century art from the perspective of St Ives, including British and international artists from Peter Lanyon, Barbara Hepworth and Terry Frost to Piet Mondrian, Naum Gabo and Paule Vézelay.

The new gallery opens with a major exhibition of new and recent work by Rebecca Warren, renowned for her exuberant, roughly-worked clay sculptures. In 2018, this space will be used for an exhibition of women artists inspired by Virginia Woolf, a retrospective of Patrick Heron’s vibrant paintings, and a specially commissioned project by contemporary artists Nashashibi / Skaer.

The new Tate St Ives is a £20 million project made possible by the support of a range of public funders, including Cornwall Council, Arts Council England, the Coastal Communities Fund, National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund and the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund, as well as a number of private organisations and individuals, starting with a major gift from The Headley Trust, and including donations from the Clore Duffield Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, The Ronald and Rita McAulay Foundation, Lord and Lady Myners of Truro, and the Garfield Weston Foundation.

Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said:

This extraordinary £20 million project has transformed Tate St Ives, ensuring its place as a truly world-class gallery. I saw first-hand the passion and dedication of staff when I visited last year, and I am thrilled that this remarkable architectural space will house incredible global exhibitions and champion modernist St Ives’ artists too. Backed by National Lottery, government and private funding, it will bring a significant economic boost to the area and is a great example of how museums can benefit our regions.

Maria Balshaw, Director, Tate said:

These beautiful galleries showcase some of the extraordinary artists who made St Ives their home across the twentieth century, as well as bringing some of the world’s most exciting contemporary art to Cornwall with Rebecca Warren's epic exhibition. Tate St Ives is a much loved part of the local community and of the Tate family, and I look forward to it playing an expanded role in Britain’s cultural landscape.

Kerstin Mogull, Managing Director, Tate said:

The level of ambition shown in the new Tate St Ives is extraordinary. On the side of a cliff surrounded by a beautiful historic town, we have managed to double the size of the galleries, double the space for learning activities, and even increase the amount of outdoor public space. I'm sure the results will amaze our visitors when we welcome them this weekend.

Mark Osterfield, Executive Director, Tate St Ives said:

The new Tate St Ives unites the local with the international, the historic with the contemporary, in a venue which brings people together to create, learn and enjoy. I am grateful to Cornwall Council who have always understood the educational, recreational, and economic advantages of this project. Through our partnership the gallery will continue to engage with the people of Cornwall and visitors from across the world, continuing the tradition of hospitality for which Cornwall is well known.

Anne Barlow, Artistic Director, Tate St Ives said:

This is an enormously exciting time to be joining the team at Tate St Ives. Our expanded exhibitions and learning programmes offer wonderful new opportunities for artists and audiences, and I look forward to building on this in the coming years on a local, national and international level.

Sir Peter Luff, Chair, Heritage Lottery Fund said:

From the Newlyn School to early 20th Century Modernists, the contribution to Cornwall made by the artists whose work is on display at the newly reopened Tate St Ives is very significant. Now, thanks to investment in the gallery made possible by National Lottery players, many more people will be able to explore, enjoy and celebrate their work.

Julian German, Deputy Leader, Cornwall Council said:

The transformed Tate St Ives continues to respond to its setting: rooted yet international. Our national gallery provides a focus for what can be achieved by creativity; in its built form, in its learning and outreach programmes and absolutely in the art it presents. The creative industries are particularly strong in Cornwall and Tate St Ives ensures an ongoing international profile. The vision for Tate St Ives has been achieved by strong partnership working and we want to take the opportunity to congratulate everyone involved.

Jamie Fobert, Director, Jamie Fobert Architects

The coastal setting and vernacular of St Ives have both influenced my approach to this work. Our focus was to create as large a gallery volume as the site would allow. Entirely excavated into the hillside, the new gallery extends, in a continuous journey, the existing gallery sequence. Six large light chambers capture St Ives’ particular light. On its roof, weaving between the light chambers, stairs and costal planting create a new public space for the town.

James Wickett, Regional Director, Currie and Brown

We enjoyed working with Tate and the construction team during the last six years helping to successfully deliver the prestigious extension of Tate St Ives. The new gallery is an inspirational building and a world class gallery for Cornwall. We have overcome many challenges in a confined site, surrounded by residential accommodation, the existing gallery and a public car park. Throughout the project we have strived to minimise disruption to the busy seaside town of St Ives. We hope St Ives and the wider Cornish community enjoy the building and the artwork for many years to come.

Graham Kingdon, Construction Director, BAM Construction

Working on the construction of the new Tate St Ives in this constrained site has had its challenges, but BAM is proud to have delivered this beautiful building which will become an iconic part of the architectural heritage of Cornwall.

For press information contact Arwen.Fitch@tate.org.uk or call +44(0)1736 791 124

High resolution press images can be downloaded from Tate's Dropbox site via the links below.