The Tate St Ives occupies an impressive three-storey building on the site of a former gas works that backs directly into the cliff face overlooking Porthmeor beach. It is close to the graveyard in which Alfred Wallis is buried. Thought up by architects Evans and Shalev, who said that the building was reminiscent of a Ben Nicholson painting, the intention of the design was to show paintings and other works in the atmosphere in which they were created. Glass is used to great effect within the structure, allowing the famous St Ives light to penetrate as much as possible. One window was designed by Patrick Heron, a well-known local artist. It is made of coloured antique glass sheets which have been laminated onto panels of clear glass. It does not have any of the black leading normally used in stained-glass windows, making it one of the largest unleaded stained-glass windows in existence.
Tate St Ives opened in 1993, the second regional gallery in the Tate network, although they had been managing the nearby Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture garden since it opened in 1980. Rather than holding a permanent collection of work, the Tate St Ives presents special exhibitions which change three times a year. By contrast, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, housed in the artist’s former home and studio, holds a permanent collection of bronze, stone and wood sculptures, together with paintings, drawings and archive material, offering a remarkable insight into the world of one of St Ives’ and Britain’s most important artists.
Artists have been coming to St Ives for centuries, but the phenomenal success of the Tate St Ives has helped to re-ignite the sense of a ‘St Ives school’. Since its inception, a number of other exciting projects have come to fruition, including the re-opening of the Leach Pottery and the renovation of Porthmeor Studios. Tate St Ives run an artist residency programme, which aims to develop the professional practice of artists who live and work in Cornwall.
Tate St Ives is open daily from March to October and Tuesday to Sunday from November to February. A rooftop restaurant, with spectacular views of the town and harbour, sells high-quality Cornish produce, while the gallery shop sells an excellent range of art books, gifts and cards, with an emphasis on local art, artists and landscape.
360 degree panoramic view taken from in front of the tiny chapel of St Nicholas on the island in St Ives. The view takes in some of Porthmeor beach, the National Coastguard lookout, the beaches of Hayle across the bay and Porthminster beach across the harbour.
In case you can’t tell, The Island is not in fact an island at all – but it’s close!
To fully appreciate the panorama go full-screen by clicking the icon in the top right.
Porthmeor beach is St Ives’ premier beach. Half a mile of golden sand flanked by rugged headlands and backing onto the Tate gallery it has plenty to offer. Porthmeor is the most dramatic of St Ives’ beaches, exposed to the full force of the Atlantic Ocean and dominated to the east by ‘the Island’ with the tiny chapel of St Nicholas atop. Whilst in the winter waves constantly pound the beach, looking like they are going to engulf the beachside studios on every high tide it is a different story in the summer.
With summer comes a calm with Porthmeor often calmer than the beaches up and down the coast. This is a great family beach with all the facilities nearby including a top notch cafe. The bathing here is safe as the beach has a more than adequate lifeguard service throughout the season.
For those a little more adventurous Porthmeor is St Ives’ most consistent surfing beach picking up far more swell than any of its more sheltered neighbours. There is surf hire and lessons available on the beach for those interested.
The surf here can be quite powerful, particularly towards the Island end where it is referred to as ‘the Boiler’ as the remains of the wreck of the Alba are down there somewhere.
Porthmeor is St Ives’ most popular beach. A long stretch of golden sand flanked by rugged headlands on either side Porthmeor is both dramatic and beautiful. One of the beaches greatest assets is its closeness to the town and facilities, not to mention the Tate Gallery which overlooks it.