August 23, 2018: Ceiling inside the St Ives Tate Modern art gallery.

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Tate St Ives

Top choice in St Ives

After an 18-month, multimillion-pound refit, St Ives' most illustrious gallery reopened its doors, complete with a monumental exhibition space that's been added to the museum's original, spiral-shaped core. Focusing on the coterie of experimental artists who congregated at St Ives after the WWII and turned the little seaside town into a mecca of modern art, the museum showcases the work of luminaries such as Barbara Hepworth, Terry Frost, Peter Lanyon and Patrick Heron in luminous, white-walled surroundings.

The original museum was built in 2000, a striking concrete-and-glass curl set back from the sands of Porthmeor Beach. This part of the museum explores the St Ives story and its role in the development of modern art, with a revolving collection of works by both the well-known artists (Hepworth, Nicholson, Lanyon and so on) along with more unfamiliar names such as Naum Gabo and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham.

The new exhibition space has added a huge, open, 500-sq-metre gallery to the original building, Filled with natural light and supported by hefty steel beams running across the space (capable of supporting elephants and a double-decker bus, apparently), it's designed to host an annual exhibition of work by one contemporary artist, to serve as a contextual counterpoint to the main gallery's collection. Whatever you make of the work on show, the gallery itself certainly makes a statement.

There's also a cafe with cracking views over the beach.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby St Ives attractions

1. Porthmeor Beach

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Stretched out beneath Tate St Ives is the sandy beach of Porthmeor, a good choice for swimmers and novice surfers thanks to its gentle swells. There's a…

2. St Ives Society of Artists

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One of the town's oldest and most influential art collectives, founded in 1929, this gallery is housed inside a converted church on Norway Sq, with a…

3. Barbara Hepworth Museum

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Barbara Hepworth (1903–75) was one of the leading abstract sculptors of the 20th century and a key figure in the St Ives art scene. Her studio on Barnoon…

4. St Ia Church

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At the top of Tregenna Hill, St Ives' parish church dates in part from the 15th century.

5. Chapel of St Nicholas


On the grassy promontory known as the Island, between Porthmeor and Porthminster, is the tiny pre-14th-century Chapel of St Nicholas, patron saint of…

6. Porthgwidden Beach

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Tucked under the grassy headland known as the Island is the little cove of Porthgwidden, a pleasant picnic spot and a handy paddling spot for the little …

7. Porthminster Beach

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The most impressive of the town beaches, with an attractive arc of soft golden sand that's usually sheltered from the wind by the cliffs. It inevitably…

8. Leach Pottery

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While other St Ives artists broke new ground in sculpture and abstract art, potter Bernard Leach was hard at work reinventing British ceramics in his…