Aerial view of Tate St Ives © Kirstin Prisk
Of all the places in the all the world … just how did the epitome of artistic cool, the Tate Gallery, find its way to sunny St Ives?
The Tate was built in 1993, to celebrate the work of contemporary artists who had lived in the town, namely Alfred Wallis, and husband and wife team, Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth. Revamped in 2017, the iconic Tate occupies a prime site in St Ives and is well worth a visit. Perched above Porthmeor Beach with panoramic views to the Atlantic Ocean, it is worth going in for the views alone.
The revamp cost £20 million and was described at the time by The Guardian as “breathtakingly beautiful”, describing the extension as a “reimagining”. It involved excavating into the hillside behind the original building. Even if you do not go inside, do take a look at the architecture of the building – and yes, the Tate is named after the sugar manufacturer.
Modern Conversations collection display, installation view at Tate St Ives, 2021. Photo © Kirstin Prisk
The site was a former gas works, so all surely agree that it now looks much more in keeping with the artistic culture of the popular, light-filled town of St Ives. The building’s design incorporated the shape of the gas works, however, so there remains a sense of history behind the imposing contemporary feel. Now, the Gallery attracts around 240,000 visitors a year, hardly surprising as the building is marvellous, providing an incredible, modern, thought-provoking art experience, while also offering a fascinating insight into the town’s artistic history. The exhibitions change regularly, too.
Tate St Ives café © Rikard Österlund
Art lovers could easily spend a day here. For most people a visit should last a few hours, so it is a great visit for a cooler or rainy day. The building is architecturally fascinating, while the arts and installations link to the local area, with a significant number of Cornish artists’ works exhibited. The top floor restaurant affords a wonderful view of the beach and ocean, which alone is worth a visit.