St Ives, Cornwall, England

Tim Cooke

It’s a jewel of a setting at the tip of Cornwall, the most south-westerly part of England, facing full on to the sea and into whatever sun is going. It has an ancient maritime and fishing tradition – and a more modern reputation as a haven for artists.

It was centred around the then small fishing village of St Ives that Alfred Wallis, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Bernard Leach, Patrick Heron, Peter Lanyon, Terry Frost, Roger Hilton, Wilhelmina Barnes-Graham and others practiced their trade and gave rise to the world-famous St Ives School of artists. St Ives still has a thriving artist colony drawn by its history and its light-enriched colours in every view. It’s now a very busy town (with many parking challenges) and set to get even busier.

For the past 20 years it’s been home to Tate St Ives, now undergoing an expansion which will address the criticism of limited space in which to combine temporary exhibitions and relevant works from Tate’s permanent collection. The gallery setting is spectacular, with wonderful views out to sea over Portmeor Strand.

Tate St Ives, Cornwall

Tate St Ives, Cornwall

If you visit now and walk up the steep steps on the right hand side of the gallery you will get your own sense of the excavation scheme preparing the way for the new extension. Some 1,000 lorry loads of rubble have been drawn from the rock to allow the foundations of the new building to be set across the summer. There will be new gallery and learning spaces. The project is scheduled for completion in 2017 and has attracted £18 million of funding to date.

Laying foundations, new Tate St Ives extensionLaying foundations, new Tate St Ives extension

Laying foundations, new Tate St Ives extension

Construction work above Portmeor Strand, Tate St Ives

Construction work above Portmeor Strand, Tate St Ives

In the meantime you can enjoy the programme of temporary exhibitions and feast your eyes on the powerfully attractive Patrick Heron coloured window in the main reception area. This work was commissioned by the original architects of the current building and creates a serene and contemplative atmosphere which holds the viewer.

Patrick Heron's Window for Tate St Ives

Patrick Heron’s Window for Tate St Ives

St Ives is packed with artistic delights – the home of Alfred Wallis, the studio of Bernard Leach, the harbour which has been painted by so many, the studio of Barbara Hepworth. Hepworth is currently the subject of a major retrospective at Tate Britain. In St Ives I walked into the Penwith Gallery – home of the legendary Penwith Society of Arts in Cornwall – to discover a beautiful Hepworth on display. The magnificent Magic Stone was bequeathed to the Society by the Hepworth Estate.

Barbara Hepworth's Magic Stone in the Penwith Gallery

Barbara Hepworth’s Magic Stone in the Penwith Gallery

St Ives never fails to delight as a place to visit and as a venue for artistic discovery. Its place in the history of British art continues to grow and the expanded Tate will be certain to draw even more British and international interest.