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Tate Liverpool

Tate Liverpool opened in 1988 in a converted warehouse in the Albert Dock. It is the home of the National Collection of Modern Art in the north of England. In the summer of 1981 the Toxteth riots played a part in making a Liverpool outstation feasible, as they shook the government and secured the Merseyside Development Corporation's sense of purpose. The riots had not been the result of unemployment in Liverpool, though this was clearly a factor, but of the ultimate collapse in relations between the police and mainly black residents of Toxteth, who were sick of what seemed to be officially tolerated harassment. A chain of events was set in motion which began with the appointment of Michael Heseltine, Secretary of State for the Environment, as Minister for Merseyside, with the instruction to offer a 'package' to help the city. [Alan] Bowness, then Director of the Tate, seized the opportunity to approach Heseltine with Lord Hutchinson... They spoke for ten minutes and Heseltine pronounced the Tate Liverpool a wonderful idea.

The Tate A History, Frances Spalding, London 1998


The Albert Dock

The Albert Dock was opened in 1846 by Prince Albert, after whom it is named. It was designed by Jesse Hartley, a Yorkshire engineer who was appointed Surveyor of Liverpool Docks in 1824. The entire Albert Dock complex stretches for seven acres and warehouses were used to store tea, silk, tobacco and spirits from the Far East. The complex was registered in 1952 as the largest group of Grade 1 Listed buildings in Britain but this did not stop it falling into a state of near dereliction before being finally closed in 1972. Following the Toxteth riots in 1981 Liverpool underwent a dramatic regeneration, with inner-city development projects bringing government support and funding to the city. The Merseyside Development Corporation (MDC) was founded and one of their chief aims was the renovation of the docklands. Tate Liverpool was incorporated into the MDC scheme which converted the Albert Dock to accommodate the Merseyside Maritime Museum (now part of the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside) as well as shops, offices and apartments.


The Conversion to an Art Gallery

The conversion of part of the Albert Dock warehouses into a modern art gallery for the Tate was designed by the architect James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates. Only the first phase had been completed by the time of James Stirling's death in 1992, but the second phase, completed in May 1998, has been carried out to the designs of Michael Wilford and Partners, which incorporates the former practice.

Tate Liverpool


Building on Success

The redevelopment of the Gallery was made possible by the award in March 1996 of a grant of £3.8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £1.5 million from the five boroughs of Merseyside from European Regional Development Funds, together with donations from public and private sources. Building work began in November 1996 and the Gallery closed to the public from April 1997 to May 1998.

Tate Liverpool

The redevelopment scheme has created new galleries, provides more space for education activities and events and has improved visitor facilities. There is a new auditorium, seminar rooms, hospitality rooms and corporate entertainment facilities. There are also dedicated information areas for visitors to learn more about the work and artists on show. Disabled access is substantially improved, there is a spacious redesigned entrance and new dockside shop and café bar.


The Programme

Tate Liverpool houses two main types of exhibits: art selected from the Tate Collection and special exhibitions of contemporary art (bringing together works loaned from other collections both public and private). Over eighty different presentations have been shown since the Gallery opened and they have included more than 300 different artists.

The Gallery has always shown the wide and challenging variety of objects that are included in the field of modern and contemporary art: photography, printmaking, video, performance and installation as well as painting and sculpture. Alongside British art, foreign work has been exhibited (some seen for the first time in this country at Tate Liverpool). The Gallery has worked with institutions in France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, United States of America, Canada, Ireland, Korea and Japan as well as galleries in Great Britain.

The Gallery has attracted more than six million visitors in the ten years since it opened and has won an international reputation for the range and quality of its programme.

You can find out more about the history of the Gallery in the Tate Liverpool Souvenir Guide available to buy from Tate Shop or the Online Shop.

Tate Liverpool