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Thursday, 18 July, 2002, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Baltic Art Galleries
Baltic Centre

The Baltic Art Galleries - a former flour mill in Gateshead has been transformed into the biggest visual art centre outside London.

(Edited highlights of the panel's review)


MARK LAWSON:
The Baltic, Tim Lott, this was one of the biggest expenditures of lottery money, is it justified?

TIM LOTT:
The expense is justified, I think. To have that space there in that place that is relatively ill-served, I think it's a wonderful thing to be happening. I think it's quite admirable, but I did feel a little disappointed when I went into it. Perhaps I had read too much pre-publicity.

I had known Newcastle well. I remember this warehouse before it was cleaned up. I rather liked it more when it was filthy in a strange way. It has a Barratt home feel about it now. Inside I was expecting great spaces. It's quite unremarkable.

It's a wonderful place to go for a drink, the glass wall is fantastic. It's an obvious idea, it is a wonderful meeting place. But it doesn't have a wow factor. I think it will get messed up quickly. I think they need to invest in some Ronseal for the floors. They have 100-year-old Arctic fur floors. They were already ruined when we went to the press launch.

MARK LAWSON:
I thought from the outside it had the wow factor. But there is a problem. We were talking about the Imperial Museum, now that the new buildings are so fantastic themselves, then the art is going to have to compete, that is the problem isn't it?

GERMAINE GREER:
Well, it depends. In this case the exhibitions were chosen in order to give a sense of place. You can screen out the place. The question is whether you want to do it that way. The building, I think, the actual core of the building, is successful because it provides a kind of exhibition space that I don't think exists anywhere else in the country.

Then I have problems with it, I think the sense of scale has been sacrificed in a fairly wanton way. I don't know why the viewing box was built out of the side of the top, it trivialises the monolith. Then a drawing which is huge, a joke in scale, as the lines are a foot wide, but the effect of this sketch, as it were this little twiggle on the side of the building, is suddenly to collapse the scale, then the buildings that are formed, the lobby, the entrance, which muddle up the approach. They are like a skirt. You have to see the big building beyond. In some ways they have belittled the building.

ADAM MARS-JONES:
There was a void then. It needed to be filled. There was a slight element of latent laddishness. A football-related dance exhibit, the film that involved rockets and spacemen. There were huge gongs to hit and the wonderful display of bridges made from Mechano. So you see the real thing and the miniature in front of it. I loved that, but I felt betrayed.

MARK LAWSON:
I'm not sure why gongs are laddish.?

GERMAINE GREER:
Because you have to run up and down and bang them. I'm not so bothered about the exhibits, I think they were carefully chosen. The idea of the art factory is a slight worry, there is a tension between the desire to create an international venue and on the press day the entire European art press was there.

There is a tension between that desire to raise the profile internationally and with the lip service that they have to give to the idea of regenerating Gateshead. The other problem is that it relates through the Millennium Bridge to the centre of Newcastle, not to Gateshead.

MARK LAWSON:
But I stood there looking at those bridges and it was fantastic.

GERMAINE GREER:
Of course.

MARK LAWSON:
The Baltic opened on July 13 in Gateshead.

See also:

05 Apr 02 | Panel

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