Modern master: how Nick Serota's Tate skyrocketed to success

By Susanna Rustin

He’s created the most popular modern art museum in the world, but that’s just one corner of a sprawling empire. As Tate’s driven director steps down after 30 years, we reveal how he transformed a dusty pile by the Thames into an £86m global force

When Nicholas Serota, aged 42, took up the post of director of the Tate Gallery in September 1988, his domain was a patch of land on the north bank of the Thames, and a newly opened outpost on Albert Dock, Liverpool. As he readies himself to leave the post almost 30 years on, Tate has surely grown bigger than he could have imagined.

From two museums, it has expanded to four. Including the new Switch House extension to Tate Modern, total gallery space now stands at 25,833 square metres. And that’s not even including the 4,000 sq m Turbine Hall in Tate Modern, with another 595 sq m at Tate St Ives, Cornwall, on the way. Meanwhile, its operating income has grown from about £14m to £86m, with the slice of this coming from the government shrinking from 80% to about a third.

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