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: “In the west, we have probably hit peak

Does this mean fewer family trips to the mall

and more google_ad_slot = "6023194682"; museum
visits? The contemporary museum sector certainly hopes so, and to bring the hope closer to reality it is doing it best to make the two experiences as similar as possible. This is an ambition not confined to Britain. Is it any coincidence that Rome’s two //--> contemporary art
museums, MACRO and MAXXI, have names like megastores? It wouldn’t surprise me if the Pompidou called its next outlet Géant Casino.

The mallification of the contemporary art experience is international, but here in Britain, where entry is free, we lead the world. Last year Tate Modern logged 5.7 million

visitors (don’t
you love

one of scale; the trouble starts, ironically, with the gallery’s departure from the mall model. Art galleries, like shops, used to be full of covetable objects ordinary people could fantasise about
owning – modest-sized works, originally made for private consumption, put on public display for the benefit of
the general population. The Switch House galleries are mostly

this feat, with a £30 million funding hole that still needs filling. On the eve of the Switch House’s opening, Serota as good as admitted to The Art
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Newspaper that google_ad_width = 970; 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 src="//"> – 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 keeping museum

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 of the artist’s statement was bad enough; the arrival /* xin-1 */ of the statement building has made things worse. Combine the two, and you get

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a tower of babble. Is the new Tate Modern worth


the £260 million investment? If it ever has to charge for entry, we’ll find out.

Laura Gascoigne
The Jackdaw