Power into Art: the Making of Tate Modern

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9780140279313: Power into Art: the Making of Tate Modern

In May 1994, the Tate Gallery in London announced that it was going to create a huge modern art gallery in London. This book tells the inside story of how the new gallery was built at Bankside power station. It looks at: how and why the architect was chosen; how the design evolved; how well the Tate team - unused for the most part to behaving like developers - guided the design and construction process; how the building was gutted and prepared for the massive amount of new construction; how the decisions were made about what to put in the gallery and where; how the local community was kept happy; and how the landscaping was designed.

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Review:

The millennium has been a godsend for doom-mongers nationwide. It seems there's nothing Brits like doing better than nodding sagely and muttering "I told you so" as some glamorous, innovative design project runs headlong into trouble, and 2000 has given us a few. First the Millennium Dome, then the London Eye--and now we get the sorry tale of the Tate Gallery's new gallery, designed for modern art, which someone thought would be best built inside the old Bankside power station in Southwark. Which was just asking for trouble. And trouble's what they got. Karl Sabbagh's book, more fascinatingly detailed than the Channel Four Series it accompanies, plots the painstaking progress of this ambitious and (from the pictures) stunning project, every step apparently a wrong one, from 1994 to publication (2000). For starters, the contract goes outside the country, to the Swiss firm Herzog and de Meuron--and the ensuing culture clash provides some great comedy moments, as when Sir Norman Foster meets Jacques Herzog and Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota, and takes it on himself to "treat the director of one of the world's major art galleries and his architect to what appeared to be a lecture on the basic principles of architecture". But although the poor British workmen come in for a good deal of criticism, Sabbagh's book implies that most of the delays were due to greed on the part of contractors and--it must be said--the willingness of the project's executives to believe the outlandish claims made by those contractors.

But somehow it got finished--almost. Sabbagh went to press as art was still being wheeled in so there's still time for any number of crises to pad out a second edition. I told you so. --Alan Stewart

About the Author:

Karl Sabbagh is an independent television producer and writer, producing documentaries for BBC and Channel 4 in the UK and PBS in the States. He is the author of five books, on topics such as the building of a skyscraper, the design and construction of a new airliner and the human body. His most recent book, A Rum Affair, was published by Penguin Press.

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