7 AUGUST 1964, Page 16

The Backroom Mr. Reid

In all the years I've known him, Norman Reid has never confided any private penchant or prejudice beyond his general absorption in twentieth-century movements in art. His is an artist's eye for exceptional quality in whatever kind, with the wisdom to consult the young art- historical specialists who assist him. Beneath the pale, studious look of a youngish Edmund Gosse at the British Museum, Norman Reid reveals "a softly lambent humour and a genuine concern for his colleagues who may expect wider opportunities. His organisational experience (he has been a Scots major) is his greatest asset, and as Keeper he is perhaps proudest of the engage- ment of Stefan Slabczynski as the Tate's out- standing restorer.

Installed next October in his chief's room overlooking the river, Norman Reid's first con- cern will be the architects' report for the Min- istry of Works on the proposed extension to the Gallery. He hopes that in perhaps five years' time a congruous block will have arisen on the Millbank site to provide extra thousands of square feet for the permanent collections and special exhibitions. There are also plans for a lecture theatre and a new restaurant, and when all this comes about let us hope the risible bus service may be improved.

Meanwhile, I am told, the Arts Council expects to take a lease on a new South Bank building in 1966 which it will doubtless staff itself for the purpose of holding its temporary exhibitions. At the same time, the Arts Council recognises the educative benefit to the Tate of Important visiting shows which may illuminate its possessions. The Arts Council would con- tinue, then, to offer to Millbank anything con- sidered particularly appropriate, though it is clear that these borrowed attractions would be fewer. Norman Reid sees the need for the Tate to organise more special exhibitions of its own, for which enlarged premises are as necessary as the larger purse already gained. Cramped space, not rivalry, is the handicap. It is a sign, indeed, of the closest liaison that the Arts Council's fantastic retrospective of Joan Miro is selected by Roland Penrose, who is actually a trustee of the Tate Gallery where it opens on August 28. The internal change at the top ensures the same smooth working. Respected by his trustees, Norman Reid's tenure will not be a whit less alert or far-sighted for all that the spotlight is dimmed.