The three-storey building, designed by architects Evans and Shalev, lies on the site of an old gas works, overlooking Porthmeor Beach. It was opened in 1993, the second regional gallery in the Tate Gallery network.
An extension to the gallery has been proposed in response to the large numbers of visitors the gallery attracts, with the aims of providing better education spaces and accommodating larger works of art. The plans have met with fierce objections from some parts of the local community. On 20 July 2010, Cornwall Council successfully bought the land for the proposed extension from the Penwith Housing Association which has pledged to use the money to build more homes for elderly people in the town.