Public gallery opened in 2002, one of the world's largest venues for the display of contemporary art. It is housed in a huge industrial structure, the former Baltic Flour Mills, which opened in 1950 and ceased production in 1981. The building remained unused for more than a decade, before Gateshead Council decided in 1992 to convert it into an arts centre. In 1994 a competition for the reconstruction was won by Ellis Williams Architects, and work on site began in 1998. The following year, while the building was still a shell, it was used as the setting for an enormous installation by Anish Kapoor (the 50-metre long, trumpet-like Taratantara, in red PVC), signalling Baltic's intentions to attract work by leading contemporary artists. There is no permanent collection, but there is a varied programme of temporary exhibitions and other activities. In addition to its vast display spaces, the Baltic has various other facilities, including artists' studios, a cinema/lecture theatre, and a library/archive. Most of the exhibitions have been devoted to what its website calls ‘innovative and provocative new art’, including projects commissioned for the venue, but there was also one on Beryl Cook in 2007—the largest survey of her work to date.
Funding for the Baltic comes from the Arts Council, the National Lottery, and other sources. Its creation was part of the regeneration plan that—from the early 1990s—has transformed the previously decaying Quayside area of Gateshead and Newcastle upon Tyne (its neighbour on the opposite bank of the River Tyne) into a showplace for modern architecture. The nearby Millennium Bridge (1997–2001) and Sage Music Centre (1997–2004) are the most spectacular products of this building boom.