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Contemporary art in Cornwall
Tate Gallery (St Ives)
Member Name: frangliz
Tate Gallery (St Ives)
Advantages: Superb building with ever-changing exhibitions
Disadvantages: No displays with free admissions like its London counterparts
The Tate is an imposing piece of architecture that overlooks Porthmeor Beach with its golden sands. Entry to the gallery is not at ground level, but there is a ramp that leads up to an outer circular area that does have a roof and was providing welcome shelter to a few souls on that wet morning. There was quite a queue forming at the ticket office, but it moved fairly quickly. When you have paid you receive a booklet giving details of the current displays, special events and plenty of general information about the Tate. It also gives details of the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden which is managed by the Tate, and the back cover shows a plan of how to get from one museum to the other by two possible routes.
As you enter the gallery you can stop and watch a film relating to the current display if you wish. There is also an impressive stained glass work designed by Patrick Heron. You can take the lift to the galleries, but if you go up the stairs you can stop and admire a collection of prints. Tate St Ives doesn't display a permanent collection of art but holds special exhibitions that usually last for about four months. At the time of my visit there was a show of the work of Alex Katz, a contemporary American artist, entitled "Give Me Tomorrow." I was familiar with the section from one of his larger paintings, "Eleuthera," that appears on the poster and the front of the brochure. It depicts several women in swimsuits and bathing hats, posing like mannequins and wearing cool smiles. I hadn't felt attracted to it, but faced with the full-size image I have to admit the use of bold, bright colours was impressive. I was, however, more attracted to Katz's landscapes, some of which had superb abstract qualities. The inclusion of several seascapes was particularly appropriate considering the location of the gallery.
Although the main display was of Katz's work, those hoping for more variety or a glimpse of some not so contemporary art would not be disappointed. Katz was invited to choose a number of works from the Tate collection, and these were hung in the area surrounding the beautiful curved window that overlooks Porthmeor Beach. Katz chose works by such diverse artists such as Henri Rousseau, George Stubbs, Francis Picabia and Piet Mondrian. Although visitors are not allowed to photograph the artworks themselves, it is possible to take photos of the huge window and the view of the coast, which was a wonderful sight even on a rainy morning. This area of the gallery is one where you feel you could spend time contemplating both the works of art and the view of the Cornish coast. There are a number of seats throughout the gallery, allowing you to stop for a while at any point.
Tate St Ives has a shop that sells books (including children's picture books), greetings cards, postcards, gifts, jewellery and mugs. There is also a licensed cafe that overlooks the old town and Porthmeor Beach; it uses ingredients from local growers and suppliers wherever possible. It serves breakfast and lunch, as well as soup, sandwiches, salads and cakes in the afternoon. There is a children's menu for under tens with a choice of three mains, three desserts and fruit juice or milk to drink. You can visit both the shop and the cafe free of charge.
During the summer months you can take a guided tour of the exhibitions at the Tate at either 11.30am or 2.30pm each day, and at the Barbara Hepworth Museum at 1pm. There are quite frequent events and activities aimed at families, especially during the summer and half-term holidays. The Tate has baby changing facilities and is accessible to wheelchairs; there is a lift to all floors. There is parking nearby, but car parks in St Ives are often full, so Tate offers £1 discount on admission if you show a bus or train ticket.
Both Tate St Ives and the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden open every day at 10am from March to October and close at 5.20pm. From November to February they open from Tuesday through to Sunday at 10am and close at 4.20pm. The last admission is always twenty minutes before closing time. As of September 2012 admission to the Tate is £6.50 and to the Hepworth Museum £5.50, but there are concessions and also combined tickets that work out cheaper. It is also possible to buy a seven-day pass (currently £14.50) that gives unlimited access to both museums as well as to the Leach Pottery in St Ives and Penlee House Gallery and Museum in Penzance. On the last Friday of May, June, July and August the gallery and shop at Tate are open from 6pm to 9pm and entry is free; the cafe is open until 10pm.
Although the admission fee to Tate St Ives might seem relatively high, it is a gallery worth visiting both for the works of art and the building itself with its spectacular curved window and wonderful view. The seven-day pass would be excellent value if you were staying in south-west Cornwall and could visit all four venues. For a wet day it is certainly a place to consider for families with all but the youngest children.
Tate St Ives
Tel: 01736 796226
Summary: Cornwall's Tate Gallery