Tate St Ives to re-open this weekend!

After a £20m underground extension project lasting over 18 months, the Tate St Ives is due to re-open this weekend.

The new underground extension to the art gallery will be used as a space to hold contemporary art shows, especially those by local artists. St Ives had long had a reputation for the quality of arts and crafts, and the gallery, which is built in the Cornish cliff side, will give local artists an avenue to do just that.

The renovation work resulted in an 18-month closure and the main obstacle for the drilling machines was that the Cornish cliffside consists largely of blue elvan, the hardest rock in the British Isles. The blue elvan was particularly resistant and hence the removal was painstakingly slow. Builders had to dig down 15m into the cliff face, and in the process 977 lorry-loads of granite were dug out to create the four-storey extension.

But no one will doubt now the hard work has been for nought.

The new 500m square gallery will allow more space for exhibits and art shows. This can only serve to motivate artists to continually improve at their craft, which will raise the standard of art to even greater heights.

The sculptor Barbara Hepworth lived in St Ives and many of her works are displayed in the area. In the same vein, the first artist to be shown in the space is Rebecca Warren, a contemporary British leader in sculpture. This opening weekend will see some of her works in the new extension, including five large totem sculptures which had to be drilled and fixed to the floor. As if not enough drilling had been done already!

This was to accommodate the incredibly heavy, bronze, totem-like sculptures to eliminate any slight chance of them falling over. Bearing titles such as Aurelius and There’s No Other Way, the three metre-high works were first made by Warren using clay before casting them in bronze and painting them.

Warren said of St Ives that “It does have this pagan, odd feel and I’ve really enjoyed spending time here and getting to know the character of the town and the people. It is like a completely different world. Especially compared to London, where everyone is walking in to you on their phone.”

The extension, which has been part of a four-year project, will allow for both contemporary art and works from Tate’s vast collection of modernist art to be displayed the same time. Previously the lack of exhibit space meant that displays had to be rotated, and in order to do so, the gallery had to be closed for a fortnight three times a year while the reshuffling was carried out. This had significant impact especially if tourists were visiting during the closed season, as the gallery is one of the draws of the town. The gallery also does £9.50 for entry – it is the only one of the Tate museums to charge, in order to be sustainable and viable – and a six-week closure, considering it attracts an average of 800 visitors a week could have led to a significant financial shortfall.

The museum is now expected to draw in 300,000 visitors a year and the extension means it will be possible for the existing galleries not to close for the six weeks each year, and to showcase important works by artists including Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Peter Lanyon and Terry Frost – all artists with links to the area.

The gallery brings in £11m in economic benefits and the council estimates the extension will nearly double that.

The extension was first proposed on the existing car park but the uproar and disapproval resulted in the extension built in hiding. One might be forgiven in thinking that the architect Jamie Fobert had been told to create nothing more than an underground hole with no windows or views. Did it really take all that time just to dig?

The gallery will open at the weekend with free extended entry. A party atmosphere is expected too, and to commemorate the grand re-opening there will be fireworks on the beach. So where do you think would be the most happening place in St Ives this weekend?

If you are intending to come down at some point to see the new Tate St Ives, why not consider staying for a long weekend, or taking a week? Maybe even a fortnight? It may sound like a far-fetched idea but there are so many things to do that you may not have the time to fit it all in! You can see the previous posts if you are coming with children, or if your are coming as a couple, our previous posts will also give you some insights as to which the best places to see are.

The Blue Mist accommodations consist of three different types of properties to suit parties of different sizes. You can find a studio apartment that sleeps two, or slightly bigger accommodation that can sleep six or eight. The decor of our properties vary, but with all of them you will find a hearty welcome, get a cosy evening sleep, and the attractions of St Ives all easily within walking distance!