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Tate Britain set for £28.5M makeover

Tate Britain has defied the recession to raise £28.5M for a makeover. The central London gallery, on the site of what was once Europe’s biggest prison, has announced plans to change the way visitors see the gallery and its art.

Part of Tate Britain will be closed from February 2011 to 2013 to allow the changes to take place.

The work will allow recent acquisitions to go on display and will open up the upper level of the building for the first time since 1927.

The top floor will become a space for Tate’s private members and will hold private views, fundraising and educational events.

The inside of Tate Britain’s Millbank entrance next to the Thames will also be given more prominence under the plans.

A quarter of Tate Britain will effectively be renovated under the refurbishment, set for completion in 2013, to cater for growing demand.

Work on a rehang - to create a chronological display of 20th-century art - is set for completion next month and will remain in place for two years.

Changing “in-focus” displays will highlight parts of the collection, such as works on paper, which have traditionally remained hidden.

Tate Britain has raised £28.5M of the funding it needs so far, from private individuals and foundations, mostly in the last two years.

Its redesign will cost £45M and the gallery said it was confident of obtaining the remaining cash in the same way.

“It shows that people really do support Tate Britain and that the project makes sense,” said Tate Britain director Penelope Curtis. “People feel it needs to be done. It’s not as difficult [to raise the cash] as you might assume.

“We will be able to see the historic site as something that’s rather exciting. We will be making the most of the fact that we have a rather elegant late 19th-century/early 20th-century building. At the moment, because of the conditions, we can’t properly celebrate its architectural quality.”

Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota said the makeover was a “very exciting prospect”.

“This is one of the few places in the world that you can show contemporary art in a historic building,” he added.

Despite the success of its sister gallery Tate Modern, Tate Britain’s visitor numbers have also risen - by 60% in the last 10 years.

Tate Britain opened to the public in 1897 after Henry Tate offered his art collection, and a gallery to house it in, to the nation.

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