Studio International

Published 11/12/2001

Tate Britain backing-up

Tate Britain has at last received the necessary lift-off through an architectural redesign which could not be achieved entirely through exhibition diversity alone. Called the Centenary Development and costing 32.3 million, there is less razzmatazz and more contemplation of the traditional kind. Architects Allies and Morrison have succeeded in making the landscaped approach to the new galleries on the west side of the building, as less of a basement event as is conceivably possible. John Miller and Partners, as main architects for the project, have, without rhetoric, managed to establish a mood of reflection before any art is even viewed, by means of the graduated progression through a series of benign, well proportioned spaces. All the galleries are air-conditioned and there is no more of that squeaky, slow-slow-quick which used to be the bane of concentration in the old spaces. Lighting is also state of the art. However, the accompanying show, ‘Exposed; The Victorian Nude’, while quintessentially ‘Britain’, offers less than the sublime or the beautiful in its quivering Victorian nudity, revealing naked Victorian attitudes to sex, undress, innocence, decadence, unrelieved by flesh, flesh and more flesh, however much cleanliness is next to godliness.