Alan Bowness (2)

Following my post about Alan Bowness the day before yesterday, I received a very interesting email from Paul Huxley who was a trustee of the Tate during the 1970s about the process of selection for Jim Stirling as the architect (and who also sat in the interview panel when Alan Bowness was chosen as Director). He writes:-

‘I was on the buildings committee that included Sandy Wilson and Alan Bullock. After a series of interviews we arrived at a short list of three but Bullock had to leave on other business at the last stage. On leaving, he said he didn’t mind two of them but he was opposed to Stirling.  I have to confess that Sandy and I were responsible for deciding on Stirling against Bullock’s wishes. He made it formally known afterwards that he disassociated himself from the appointment. We chose Stirling largely on the strength of his beautiful extension of the art museum in Stuttgart. Bullock was opposed on the grounds of the History Faculty building at Cambridge that leaked rainwater’.

So, the Turner galleries were already underway before Alan was appointed director and when Bullock was still chairman. As he says, ‘The concept of new Turner galleries was certainly in the pipeline during Reid’s time and there was much discussion about the exact location’.

This doesn’t at all surprise me. What I discovered in writing about museums is that people misremember the exact circumstances of their gestation. It’s often not tremendously well recorded and then gets mythologised, not deliberately, but as the reality is forgotten. I was particularly aware of it in writing about the Guggenheim in Bilbao where there are several different versions of the same story as to how it came into being, but it also applies to Tate Modern. In fact, the more the circumstances have been recorded, as at Tate Modern, the more complex the narrative turns out to have been.

So, I’m more than happy to provide this addition/correction, thanks to Paul.

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