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Tate makes space for the cutting edge as 'Art Now' opens for contemporary art

An installation by Matthew Barney inaugurates a programme of innovative contemporary art long planned by Serota

One of the cherished ambitions of Tate Gallery director Nicholas Serota will be realised when a new room for temporary exhibitions on the sharper end of contemporary art opens at the museum at the beginning of this month.

To be known as “Art Now”, the room is a rectangular space which belongs to the north-east extension of 1979 and had formerly served as an office for the print department although originally designed to be a public resting area. With a concrete floor and simple track lighting, it conveys an intentionally less sophisticated mood than the extension’s adjoining exhibition modules and will be inaugurated with “OTTOshaft” (2 May-18 June), a major installation originally created by leading young New York artist Matthew Barney for Documenta 1992 and recently presented to the museum by its senior support group, the Patrons of New Art.

The plan for a room for contemporary art dates back nearly ten years, when Gerald Metals sponsored a short series of summer exhibitions of new work by Scott Burton (1985), Stephen Cox (1986), Terry Winters (1986) and William Tucker (1987) which took place in the then unrestored north Duveen gallery. Their value provided a convincing argument in favour of a programme of younger contemporary art, a development which has been adopted by other institutions including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and a search for a suitable space was launched by the Tate.

The cost of converting Art Now’s room, estimated at £140,000, has been met entirely by private donations: from the Annenberg Foundation; Giles and Sonia Coode-Adams; dealer Laure Genillard; the Paradina Trust; Pro-Arte, a new foundation created by Italian businessman Pierre Franco Grosso; and London-based publisher Bernhard Starkmann. Annual running costs, covering eight exhibitions with a small catalogue, are likely to exceed £100,000 and Sean Rainbird and Frances Morris, both curators of the modern collection, will be responsible for devising the programme of activities which includes the new sculptures of Marc Quinn (3 July-20 August); Genevieve Cadieux (5 September-October) and Miroslaw Balka (November-December).

Speaking to The Art Newspaper, Mr Rainbird pointed out that he did not wish to impose any limitations on Art Now’s purpose. “If a senior artist takes an unexpected turn in his work, he will be a valid candidate for Art Now’s room”, he explained, adding that the programme will be “lighter on its feet” by looking just six to twelve months ahead rather than being planned three to five years in advance as a formal exhibition schedule would require.

Matthew Barney’s new video film “Cremaster IV”, of two bikers at the Isle of Man TT races, sponsored by Artangel, will be screened in London in early May, and later in the month during the TT races (for details telephone 0171-494 3780).

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Tate makes space for the cutting edge'