Laura Gascoigne: Reach for the Starchitects – The Switch House

A survey by the Office for National Statistics in May revealed that the British are changing their


spending habits. Instead of filling our homes to the rafters with consumer durables and not-so-durables, we’re spending our spare cash on ‘experiences’, including recreation and, yes, culture. “People are interested in servicing a lifestyle rather than buying stuff,” one trend forecaster commented in The Guardian, while a senior executive from IKEA predicted gloomily:

Tate Modern logged 5.7 million visitors (don’t you love the precision of the decimal point?) and this year, with the
added attraction
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Helsinki, still refusing to give the go-ahead to its Guggenheim outlet
more than a year after the Paris-based architects Moreau Kusunoki won the competition to design it.

Bilbao claims to have recouped the


Guggenheim’s construction
costs within three years

of opening. Even allowing for some prestidigitous book-balancing on Bilbao’s part, there’s precious //--> hope of Tate Modern google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; repeating this feat, with a £30 million funding hole that google_ad_width = 970; still needs filling. On the eve of the Switch House’s opening, Serota as good as admitted to The Art Newspaper that if the Tate didn’t seize the opportunity of “unwrapping the building” to hook some late donations it would be this year, next year, sometime, never before the debt was paid. Slim chance of our new tightwad PM delivering on Osborne’s previous
promise of an extra £6.8 million of annual funding – and extra funding will be needed, not just to
service the debt.

As with any expanded operation, the elephant in the gallery extension is the payroll. Billionaire donors who will happily

part with capital to get their names on a museum building
don’t give a stuff about the extra
numbers of staff needed
to keep it
open. They leave such


practicalities to
museum administrators //--> and the public bodies that fund them. If it came to

Brooklyn Museum, has announced plans to cut

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staff. The Met’s 2,300 staff – who, unlike museum staff in Britain, are properly paid – cost $200 million in salaries and benefits in 2013. MoMA, which spent $87 million on its 800 employees in the same year, has scaled back plans for a new extension.

Double your gallery space and you double your warding costs, at least in theory. One reason, I suspect, why Tate

Modern’s Switch House galleries are almost entirely given over to
large sculptural installations is that they require less security – the worst you can
do is steal a Carl André brick. Meanwhile the more vulnerable paintings and nickable sculptures have been squeezed into a few crowded galleries in the old Boiler House to save on warders.

The dawn

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of the artist’s statement was bad enough; the arrival of the statement building has made things worse. Combine the two, and you get a tower of babble. Is the new Tate Modern worth the £260 million investment? google_ad_height = 90; If it