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The Tate: A History Hardcover – 1 Sep 1998

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Tate Publishing; First Edition edition (1 Sept. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1854372319
  • ISBN-13: 978-1854372314
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 20.3 x 26 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 533,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

The history of the Tate Gallery highlights a century of woeful underfunding of the arts in Britain. Built largely thanks to the philanthropy of a Liverpool sugar magnate, Sir Henry Tate, the National Gallery of British Art opened its doors in 1897. Immediately referred to by its benefactor's name, it came under the auspices of the National Gallery, which seemed to use it as a dustbin for any paintings it deemed unsuitable. Within 20 years it had gained a new responsibility, modern foreign art, but this did not bring with it a new radicalism; no Cézanne was acquired until 1933, and the first Cubist Picassos were bought only in 1949.

The stories of missed buying opportunities make one wince, with the benefit of hindsight. The last 30 years have seen it finally catch its breath, with a succession of well-received exhibitions, the opening of satellite Tates in St Ives and Liverpool, and the creation of the Turner Prize. The future looks fittingly bright, too, with the planned Museum Of Modern Art on Bankside. The mood of repression which remained long after Millbank Penitentiary was demolished would seem to have lifted.

Frances Spalding is an experienced art historian and critic. The fact that this book is published by Tate Gallery Publishing has allowed her unprecedented access to archives and personnel, but perhaps also clipped her wings. However, despite a certain insularity, the detail is considerable, her observation wry, and as an account of arts administration in Britain it is to be thoroughly recommended. --David Vincent

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 5 Jan. 2006
Format: Hardcover
Frances Spalding, author of this text on the history of the Tate, is an art historian and critic with significant experience in the field of British art; among her other works are 'British Art Since 1900', 'Roger Fry: Art and Life', and many other books, articles and exhibition works.
This book includes nearly 100 photographs, over half in full in colour. These include reproductions of the art, the buildings, and selected individuals, including Sir Henry Tate, the sugar magnate who founded the first gallery (then dedicated to becoming a national gallery to showcase British art). Spalding traces the history prior to the establishment of the Tate, and the general state of the arts in British care (an issue that is perennially problematic, as the demands on the public purse and the generosity of the private donors always present a challenge).
'The history of the Tate Gallery begins with the letter Henry Tate wrote to the National Gallery on 23 October 1889.' Tate offered his own collection of modern British art under certain circumstances, eventually to include the erection of a new building on the site of the old Millbank Prison. Tate's collection was joined with works from the National Gallery (on Trafalgar Square) and other private and public collections; indeed, the Tate Gallery was already planning an extension when it opened in 1897 - the plans for the extension were on display even then.
The Tate may seem to be secure in the public and artistic mind now, but the search for an identity was long and often controversial. The mission of the Tate Gallery took a long time to solidify into the presence it has today, with its network of several galleries.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By My Experience on 12 Oct. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this survey of the history of the Tate, as it was at one point in its history before it split into Britain, Modern, Liverpool, St Ives, Uncle Tom Cobley and all. It is written by Frances Spalding, a Professor of Art History at Newcastle University, as well as author on 20th century British art figures such as John Piper. There is a sense that we are getting a straightforward tale with some of the cupboards being opened to show the skeletons, including the at times eccentric, not to mention criminal, as well as drunken, antics of one past director in particular. The internal battles of director and trustees are addressed and charted over the course of the museum's history, and the current director, Sir Nicholas Serota, revealed as a youthful rebel against.... the Tate!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Art for the nation's sake 23 Sept. 2005
By FrKurt Messick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Frances Spalding, author of this text on the history of the Tate, is an art historian and critic with significant experience in the field of British art; among her other works are 'British Art Since 1900', 'Roger Fry: Art and Life', and many other books, articles and exhibition works.

This book includes nearly 100 photographs, over half in full in colour. These include reproductions of the art, the buildings, and selected individuals, including Sir Henry Tate, the sugar magnate who founded the first gallery (then dedicated to becoming a national gallery to showcase British art). Spalding traces the history prior to the establishment of the Tate, and the general state of the arts in British care (an issue that is perennially problematic, as the demands on the public purse and the generosity of the private donors always present a challenge).

'The history of the Tate Gallery begins with the letter Henry Tate wrote to the National Gallery on 23 October 1889.' Tate offered his own collection of modern British art under certain circumstances, eventually to include the erection of a new building on the site of the old Millbank Prison. Tate's collection was joined with works from the National Gallery (on Trafalgar Square) and other private and public collections; indeed, the Tate Gallery was already planning an extension when it opened in 1897 - the plans for the extension were on display even then.

The Tate may seem to be secure in the public and artistic mind now, but the search for an identity was long and often controversial. The mission of the Tate Gallery took a long time to solidify into the presence it has today, with its network of several galleries. The original Tate Gallery is now called 'Tate Britain', having returned to its original mission; the Modern art collection is now housed across the river at the Bankside gallery.

Part of the Tate Gallery's controversy over time has been its penchant for Modern art - one of the aspects of Modern art is, by necessity, that it has not been tested over the course of time. There is also an annual Turner Prize, given to a British artist under the age of 50 - this has often sparked controversy in both artistic and political realms. Spalding looks at the artists and art works, to be sure, but more directly focuses upon the personalities that made the Tate as an institution function, which includes an interesting mixture of people.

This is an interesting history, certain to be of delight to any with an interest in the business of Modern art, British art, and how artistic institutions survive and thrive in the sometimes hostile and more often neglectful environments of the Western world.
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