’Tis an ill wind that blows nobody any good, and covid provided a convenient opportunity for organisations to stop doing things they didn’t like doing, and they see no reason to go back again.
I’ve been a Tate member for years. The Tate Modern is very close, and it’s nice to be able to pop in when I please and see exhibitions at my own pace without the pressure of feeling like I need to get the most out of a paid visit. I also used to enjoy using the Members Room as a space to study, read, or take a break between exhibitions. The room closed during the pandemic, but unlike everything else, it has never reopened.
Technically, it’s the Granville-Grossman Members Room, named in honour of a significant benefactor. They didn’t get much recognition for their money, though, because the room was named in November 2017, and has been closed since March 2020. So that’s about 28 months, I calculate. That’s also probably why the Tate can’t admit that they’re never going to reopen it.
The official position according to the website is that “The Granville-Grossman Members Room is temporarily closed until further notice”, but over a year after they finally rolled back the last of the covid-era restrictions, that position is increasingly preposterous.
Frankly, they’re taking us for fools, and I told them so:
To: [email protected]
Subject: Admit it, the old Members Room is never going to reopen
The Granville-Grossman Members Room is not “temporarily closed until further notice”, it’s permanently closed, and it’s never going to open again. Isn’t it time to stop taking us for fools and to admit the truth?
Today, I received a reply. It’s not an outright admission, but a closer reading supports my thesis. Let’s analyse it:
From: [email protected]
Subject: RE: Admit it, the old Members Room is never going to reopen
Thank you for taking the time to write to us about the Members Room.
The Granville-Grossman room remains closed since the galleries reopened during the pandemic. As the UK has returned to normal, since the pandemic, we have continued to review our daily operations and cost regarding opening the second Members space.
“To be honest, running the old Members Room was a drag, and we were glad for the excuse to close it. It’s still closed.”
Before 2020 when the Granville-Grossman room was open we did see the majority of visitors wanting to enjoy the Members Bar in the main building overlooking the River Thames and because of this we have continued to have the Members Bar in the Natalie Bell building as the main Members area. We did recently have additional space opened in the East Room on Level 6, above the Members Bar, which also overlooks the river and provided extra space for our Members.
“The Members Bar is so popular that you have to queue for a seat! This means that we don’t need the Members Room. But members were complaining about not being able to get a seat, so we do actually need the Members Room. But instead of reopening the Members Room that we already had, we opened up another room instead.”
The Members Bar was always busier, it’s true. It’s smaller, and closer to the main exhibitions. The Members Room was larger, more peaceful, and you had to take a lift to get there.
But being quieter was part of its stated purpose, according to the Tate’s own website, which says that “The room is designed with a focus on dining and working – with WiFi and a smaller quiet space.”
There was more space for families with children, and it was an area more amenable to spending a longer time. I’m sure they make more money from the tightly packed and bustling Members Bar, but that doesn’t mean that the Members Room was unwanted or a failure.
We are continuing to review the Granville-Grossman members space as well as alternatives we may be able to look at but for now the space will remain closed with the Members Bar open as our main Members space with the extra space on Level 6 opening when available.
“Even though the Granville-Grossman room is still closed, and we’ve replaced it with another room, it might still reopen, honest! Please don’t tell the benefactor’s family that it’s now the Granville-Grossman Storage Room! Also, the extra space is not as good as the old Members Room.”
There is also a redevelopment currently taking place of the old café space on Level 1 in the Natalie Bell building which is due to open later this summer to all visitors. Although this will not be a member’s specific room it will provide further catering spaces within the galleries.
“I heard that you were upset about the lack of space for members. If the Members Bar is busy at popular times, the public café, which, by the way, is currently closed for redevelopment, is bound to have lots of space available despite the fact that these are popular times.”
Thank you again for contacting us about this and If you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact us on 020 7887 8888 (our phone lines are open daily between 10:00-17:00).
“If you would prefer to receive a non-answer verbally, please call this number during working hours.”
All the very best,
It will never reopen.