Published  24/07/2002

Baltic Centre


Gateshead is suddenly on the map. First, with the new bridge by Wilkinson Eyre. Now with the opening of the new Baltic art gallery that represents the fuller culmination of a 15-year programme of regeneration along the quayside. This will be followed by Norman Foster’s new music centre. The Baltic Centre, which has cost 46 million, partly from the Lottery Fund, is directed by a 54-year-old Swedish curator, Sune Nordgren, who likens it to an ‘art factory’. Indeed the Centre is likely to be more proactive even than Tate Modern, ‘Proactive-Interactive’ through the engagement of contemporary artists to make art and display it before the public. Nordgren is honest when he says that he expects the major proportion of visitors to be regional. There is already great local pride, and Gateshead at last feels an equal part of the riverside Newcastle community rather than being always the ugly sister. In the selection for the opening, new work by Julian Pie shone, together with film material by Jane and Louise Wilson never previously seen in Britain. Also evident is American Chris Burden’s 9.5 metre long reproduction of the Tyne Bridge, in Meccano. The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, to give it its full designation, was designed by architect Dominic Williams alone in his bedroom: later his father’s firm Ellis Williams took a role, but only after young Dominic had reached the finals. The full fruition of the competition win took eight years.

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