BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art opens in Britain (2002)

R.J. Preece
artdesigncafé - art | 14 October 2010
This announcement first appeared in Sculpture magazine, 21(6), July 2002, p. 12.

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art opens in Britain

Part of a £250 million regeneration strategy for East Gateshead in Northeast England, the new 9,850-square-foot BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art is slated to open on July 13. The £45.7 million (approximately $68.5 million) project, across the Tyne river from the city of Newcastle, transforms the former Baltic Flour Mills, a disused 1950s grain warehouse, into one of the biggest temporary art spaces in Europe.

Converted by Ellis Williams Architects, the BALTIC houses five galleries, as well as facilities for the creation and study of contemporary art, including artists’ studios, a cinema/lecture space, digital media labs, a library, and archive. According to BALTIC Director Sune Nordgren, “BALTIC will be an Art Factory, a new breed of public art space, where artists from all over the world will come and work and where BALTIC will provide the opportunity and resources to make art. With no permanent collection and an eclectic artist-in-residence program, BALTIC’s focus is as much on the creative process as on the end product.”

BALTIC’s opening exhibition, “B.OPEN,” features works by Chris Burden, Carsten Höller, Julian Opie, Jaume Plensa, and Jane and Louise Wilson. Chris Burden is showing a model of the nearby Tyne Bridge, constructed of specially fabricated Meccano parts in stainless steel. The work’s installation in BALTIC’s top-story gallery space allows visitors to experience it against the backdrop of the actual Tyne Bridge, visible through the glazed west façade. Meanwhile, Höller has been commissioned to create a light installation that “will have an extreme effect on the viewer’s physical experience of the space.”

In the studios this summer, Los Carpinteros, Alec Finlay, Eva Grubinger, Chad McCail, and Tsuyoshi Osawa will be making work and participating in art programming. Additional events will take place around the theme of bread, specifically developed to respond to BALTIC’s former role as a flour mill.

Since 1999, BALTIC has sponsored a program called “B4B.” It has commissioned works by Anish Kapoor, who contributed a monumental double back-to-back trumpet form fabricated in red PVC that runs through the interior of the structure, as well as works by Marijke van Warmerdam, Jenny Holzer, Janet Cardiff, and others.

The BALTIC follows other arts development initiatives in the area, including Antony Gormley’s 65-foot-high, steel Angel of the North (1998), situated on a hilltop overlooking a major highway, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge (2001), and a music center on the riverfront designed by Norman Foster to be completed in 2003.

In 1997, The Arts Council of England awarded BALTIC £33.4 million from the National Lottery Fund, plus £1.5 million a year for five years toward operating costs. Other funding comes from the Gateshead Council, Northern Arts, the European Regional Development Fund, and One North East.