Newest Review: ... ission prices also vary. We didn't realise at first that, in addition to the main gallery, there is also a separate Barbara Hepw... more
A Tate worse than death?
Tate Gallery (St Ives)
Member Name: nikkisly
Tate Gallery (St Ives)
Date: 12/10/02, updated on 13/10/02 (540 review reads)
Disadvantages: Largely artless!
My first sight of The Tate, opened in 1993 and built on the site of the old gasworks in St Ives, was both a delight and a disappointment. The delight was at the fantastic setting and splendid architecture. The disappointment was that it was so much smaller than I had imagined it to be.
Having stayed overnight in St Ives, (Bed and Breakfast £23.00 per person per night, out of season) we walked down to The Tate in the evening to find out the opening times and check on parking. We were amazed to find that there didn't seem to be a car park specifically for The Tate. There were two small pay and display council car parks within easy walking distance and at nine o'clock on a Sunday morning, out of season, we parked easily enough. When we left the car park at midday there were no available places left and tempers were beginning to fray.
The Tate's opening hours vary according to season. Between March and October, it is open every day from 10.00 am to 5.30 pm and between November and February from Tuesday to Sunday from 10.00am to 4.30 pm. However, there are short periods during the year when the gallery closes to receive and arrange new exhibits so if you're planning your holiday or short break around a visit it would be worth making a preliminary 'phone call (01736 796226) or visiting the website first. (Having said that, we found that the opening times seemed to differ according to which website you visit!)
ission prices also vary. We didn't realise at first that, in addition to the main gallery, there is also a separate Barbara Hepworth Museum and Garden located in the centre of St Ives. Admission to the Tate only costs £4.25 (concessions £2.50) while admission to the Hepworth Museum costs £3.95 (concessions £2.25). You can buy a joint admission for £6.95 (£3.90), which obviously represents quite a saving if you want to visit both sites. However at peak times the Hepworth Museum is sometimes closed to prevent overcrowding and we were given very vague answers as to what would happen to our admission fee in that event.
Having paid, we were given lapel stickers and printed tickets. "Could we leave to check on our dogs and re-enter?" we asked.
"Oh, yes. Just keep your ticket and you can come and go as often as you like" we were told.
(So, what's to stop us visiting The Tate, stepping outside and passing our tickets/stickers onto someone else? Apparently nothing, apart from the fact that we're honest!)
Anyway, having paid, we set off to explore. The gallery is on four levels with ramps and a lift for disabled access, although in my opinion the lift seemed quite small. On the fourth floor there is a café serving drinks, snacks and light meals at which the prices seemed very reasonable and the staff lackadaisical to the point of being comatose. Other facilities include a rather dark and cramped (although well-stocked) gift shop; exceptionally clean toilets with a separate parent and baby room and baby changing facilities. One small grumble was that we didn't feel that things were particularly well signed. Despite looking, we found only one toilet in the whole building, which, I can imagine, would lead to some very crossed legs during the height of the summer season. (I'm not saying that there was only toilet - just that the signs were very poor.)
I'm not going to comment on the art itse
lf - it's not fair. I knew it wouldn't really be to my personal taste so telling you that, to me, the Heron stained-glass window looked like a depiction of a full English breakfast or that one of the ceramics displays looked like several hundred massed belly buttons would be below the belt (I know belly buttons are usually above the belt - it's just a figure of speech, O.K.?). However, I do feel it's fair to comment on the way that art was displayed.
We didn't feel that there was enough of it. This is a gallery with vast expanses of plain white walls and very little actual art. (This was a comment repeated over and over again in various forms in the visitors suggestion book - "Where?s the Art?", "How about some Art?" and "Wot? No Art?"). The exhibitors do change so perhaps we were unlucky in our timing. And there are lots of special events such as opportunities to meet the exhibiting artists, seminars for art teachers etc, the details of which can be obtained from reception.
To be negative, we found The Tate too small and too 'minimalist', the point of an art gallery surely being to actually have some art. What items were there were often without explanatory labels and we also noted several explanatory labels without art.
At the height of the summer season, I can imagine The Tate becoming unpleasantly crowded. We felt that toilets and other facilities could have been better signposted and that parking nearby would prove a nightmare at anything but the quietest times. There is a dropping-off zone immediately outside the gallery but the car driver at least should bank on parking and walking back quite some way.
To be positive, all the facilities were spotlessly clean. The building itself was an architectural masterpiece, with the best features being the huge glass picture windows overlooking the beach directly opposite. The views from these windows were quite the most spec
tacular 'art' on display. The admission price was reasonable; the guides were visible and very knowledgeable and helpful.
On leaving The Tate, we were given a street map showing us how to get to the Hepworth Museum and promptly got hopelessly lost since it was lacking in detail and showed very few of the minor back streets of St Ives. However, in wandering aimlessly around trying to locate the Hepworth, we did at least get to visit some of the shops, many of which sell surfing related goods. A word of warning though - we found the prices extortionate! The new wetsuit that I bought in Bude in the week prior to my visit for £49.99 was on sale for £89.99 in several of the shops, so anyone in search of bargains might do better out of town.
When we finally found the Hepworth Museum, it was packed and we were asked to wait outside until a few visitors had left. After 15 minutes we were allowed in and were fascinated by the sculptures in the gardens although the museum itself was somewhat overcrowded. My tip would be to visit that as early as possible in the day, perhaps before visiting The Tate itself.
Overall, we left with a feeling of "Been there, done that, what was all the fuss about?" and went across the road to the beach to do some surfing which was altogether a far more pleasurable experience than visiting The Tate.
One of the most fun things about our weekend trip was sampling the more unusual flavours of farm-made ice creams including 'Trifle' and 'Christmas Pudding' that proliferate in the town. All the amenities of St Ives are within walking distance of The Tate, including the harbour from where you can take boat trips. And the surfing at Porthmeor beach, directly opposite the gallery was terrific.
Visiting the Tate Modern at St Ives, you cannot help but admire the stunning and innovative architecture. It would have been nice to have some stunning and innovative art to admire too
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