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May 17 2012

Tate Britain promises new chronological display of art treasures

Success in raising £45m for improvements allows 2013 project to rehang collection and display works from 1550 to present day

Tate Britain has promised visitors a chronological circuit of the full 500-year range of its art treasures from next year as it announced success in raising the £45m needed for its major improvements.

The last link in the chain was a £4.9m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, allowing completion in 2013 of a project to conserve and upgrade galleries and open up new spaces.

Central to that is a rehang of the collection, which the gallery's director Penelope Curtis said would be displayed chronologically – from 1550 to the present day – rather themed or by artist group.

That will please vocal critics – among them the Guardian's Jonathan Jones and the respected Burlington Magazine – who have been aghast at the paucity of pre-1900 works being displayed over recent years.

That is down to the Millbank Project, explained Curtis. "What we didn't do well enough was communicate that we were in the middle of a building project. We were perhaps too successful in hiding it."

Nicholas Serota, overall director of Tate, admitted: "Obviously when you have something like a fifth of the galleries out of service you have to sympathise with the visitors.

"They are expecting to see a full panorama of art from 1550 to the present day and we haven't been able to show many of the great works in the collection."

Tate Britain hopes there will be fewer critics when the rehang is opened to the public next May.

The chronological circuit of around 400 works will begin with early treasures such as Hans Eworth's 1565 Portrait of an Unknown Lady, showing works through the centuries to the present day including, said Curtis, both the unexpected and those that "people want and expect to see".

Artists on display will include Constable, Gainsborough, Hogarth, Millais, Stubbs, Bacon, Hockney, Lowry and Spencer. There will also be dedicated galleries for William Blake and Henry Moore.

The gallery has also opened the doors to a rehang of its Turner bequest in the Clore gallery – "the first phase of putting the Tate back to what it should be", said Curtis. It includes many popular favourites as well as lesser-known aspects of his work, including an unfinished study of female nudes never been displayed by Tate Britain and conventionally difficult to recognise as a Turner.

The galleries will also feature works which benefit from recent research, including a room in which Turner seascapes hang alongside works by his contemporary and rival, Constable.

A total of £1.9m from the HLF grant will pay for a major digitisation project integrating the archives into an online collection with the other £3m going in to the £45m pot, a target Tate set for itself in 2009.

Getting the money is something of a relief, particularly as the HLF turned down Tate's application for a £7.5m grant 18 months ago, prompting the gallery to go back to them for a smaller sum.

"Obviously not raising money in the initial tranche has put additional pressure on our fundraising from individuals, foundations and trusts," said Serota. "It is a tribute to the support and faith that individuals, foundations and trusts have in Tate Britain and in its programme that we have managed to achieve that level of support."

Sue Bower, head of the HLF London, said her organisation was "passionate about supporting projects that make our heritage accessible to everyone and through opening up the galleries, creating new learning spaces and digitising archives – this impressive project will do just that".


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October 14 2011

Frieze art fair 2011: 'It's got remarkable vitality'

London's Frieze art fair attracts people from all corners of the art world. Starting with Tate director Nicholas Serota, they explore their fascination with some of this year's pieces



September 08 2011

Tate Modern's Oil Tanks to follow Turbine Hall in time for Olympics

'World's most exciting new art space' to open in 2012 with Nicholas Serota confident of raising £215m needed

Two enormous concrete oil tanks behind the Tate Modern, unused for 30 years, will become perhaps the "most exciting new space for art in the world" in time for the Olympics, the chairman of Tate said yesterday.

Launching the organisation's annual report, Lord Browne said phase one of Tate Modern's £215m extension plans would be opened as part of next summer's London 2012 festival, the big bang finale of the Cultural Olympiad.

Tate had hoped the full extension project would be completed by 2012 but officially conceded on Thursday that will not happen. Phase two, a building above the tankers, will now open "at the latest in 2016".

What will open next year are the two 30-metre wide and seven-metre high concrete chambers. They will be known as what they were – the Oil Tanks – just as the now world-famous Turbine Hall of the former power station retained its original name. They will become a space for installations, live and performance art, film, lectures and symposia among other things.

After that, 10 new floors will be built above them and linked to the present Tate Modern building. Tate said 70% of the money for the full £215m project had been raised, with the biggest donors wishing to remain anonymous.

The lack of government money for large projects and the recession have made raising money difficult but Tate director Nicholas Serota was upbeat and said he was "super-confident" that all the money would be raised.

Browne said it was the "single largest fundraising campaign from private sources ever undertaken in the cultural field". He added that Tate Modern was there to stand "as a defence against all that remains ugly and unimaginative within our country".

Tate Modern director Chris Dercon, who arrived in April, said visitors wanted new and different things from a museum. They wanted it to be a place for "mental and bodily exercise", where they could learn and interact. "A museum is never ever finished, it is a constant work in progress, a constant process of change and transformation."

By the time the Tate Modern project is finished there will be 70% more space to display art.

The announcement was made as Tate released its annual report for its four museums – two in London, one in Liverpool and one in St Ives.

The report shows that the public appetite for visual art continues unabated with 7.4 million people visiting the four galleries in 2011, making it the second most popular arts organisation in the world after the Louvre.

Tate last year acquired 287 works through purchase or bequest, with a total value of more than £8m.

The works included donations to the Artist Rooms collection from Jenny Holzer, Robert Therrien and Jannis Kounellis; the purchase of a room-sized fabric installation by Korean Do Ho Suh, Staircase-111 2010, which he made specifically for Tate Modern; and the acquisition of two of only four known works in oil on paper by 17th-century artist Mary Beale.

Tate said it was also extending its geographical reach, collecting more work from the Middle East, Latin America and Asia. It also this week appointed a curator for contemporary African art and continues to expand its photography collection.

The organisation said that 62% of its funding now came from private and not public sources.

One of its biggest exhibitions next year will be a Damien Hirst retrospective at Tate Modern, while at Tate Britain there will be a show about Picasso and Modern British Art and in the autumn a big pre-Raphaelite exhibition. At St Ives there will be a show dedicated to American artist Alex Katz, while Liverpool will explore late works of Turner, Monet and Twombly.

Asked about the results of a recent staff survey which raised concerns about overwork, low pay and accusations of bullying, Serota said Tate was seriously concerned. He said: "Some of that bullying and harassment comes from members of the public and from outside people as well as within the building, but wherever it comes from we regard it as completely unacceptable".

Tate staff have had a pay freeze for three years, year one voluntary and the next two imposed by the government. Serota commented: "If you polled most staff in most arts organisations they would probably say they were underpaid and indeed most of them are."


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May 13 2011

Letters: Artistic bravado

In the welcome spirit in which people around the world are taking it upon themselves to question and even shake off entrenched and fossilised regimes that have long outstayed their welcome, I wonder if their courageous example could not have something to teach us?

A regime that occurs to me is the one that occupies the monolithic and ever-expanding palace that now dominates the South Bank of the Thames as well as the entire British art establishment, and has done for 23 years. Despite having presided over numerous examples of conflicts of interest and accusations of cronyism in the appointment of trustees etc, you might be forgiven for thinking that Sir Nicholas Serota is de facto Tate president for life and that the contemporary art world is now moulded in his image. Ai Weiwei (Anish Kapoor calls for Ai Weiwei protest, 11 May) is indeed a rare beacon of dissidence in the contemporary art world and a shining example to those who would have no truck with despotism.

I long for the day when a commissioned artist, out of sheer perverse bravado, might fill the lofty, intimidating Turbine Hall of Tate Modern with delicately crafted watercolours, possibly even hung on the wall.

John Keane

London


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March 08 2011

Artists donate Artangel collection to Tate

Collection of works by artists including Catherine Yass and Steve McQueen to be made available to museums across the UK

A new collection of film and video artworks by artists including Jeremy Deller, Douglas Gordon, Steve McQueen and Catherine Yass is to be donated to the Tate.

The innovative arts group Artangel, which this year celebrates its 20th birthday, announced the creation of the Artangel collection, which will be looked after by the Tate and made available to galleries and museums across the UK.

That means Artangel and the individual artists will be donating nine new works to the Tate, adding to the seven it already has. There will be five new commissions over the next three years.

Artangel's co-directors, Michael Morris and James Lingwood, said they had worked with artists setting new standards in film and video and they wanted results to be seen by as wide an audience as possible.

Morris said one of the most significant cultural developments over the past 20 years was the way in which artists "have pioneered new experiences with the moving image. Ambitious cinematic installations with the capacity to transform their setting for a complete emotional sound and image."

Among the works that will form part of the collection are Deller's recreation of the miners' strike Battle of Orgreave; Gordon's 1999 directorial debut, Feature Film; Richard Billingham's moving depiction of his family in Fish Tank; and Yass's High Wire featuring the French high-wire artist Didier Pasquette walking between high rises in Glasgow.

Artangel's commissions will be in collaboration with the Ikon gallery in Birmingham and the Whitworth in Manchester. The first two are from Yael Bartana – titled Lying in State, which will be premiered in the Polish pavilion at the Venice Biennale – and the artists Anri Sala and Sejla Kameric, with a work called 1395 Days without Red, which will be first seen at the Whitworth during this summer's Manchester international festival.

The Tate director, Nicholas Serota, welcomed the Artangel announcement. "This most generous and imaginative gesture ensures that these remarkable works of art will be enjoyed by generations to come and are made available for loans to galleries in the UK and beyond," he said.

As well as film work, Artangel has been involved in many noted art projects including Michael Clarke's dance work Mmm..., Rachel Whiteread's House and Clio Barnard's award-winning film from last year, The Arbor.


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December 07 2010

Sound and fury

Last night Susan Philipsz won the Turner prize, but the evening was dominated by art students demonstrating against cuts



July 02 2010

Can Tate afford BP?

The oil company might give generously to arts organisations, but Tate and other museums must live up to their ethical commitments. It's time to ditch this tainted sponsor

Jonathan Jones has some simple words of advice for national artistic institutions currently feeling the financial squeeze: "If they can get money from Satan himself, they should take it." The phrase is deliberately provocative, but succeeds in reaching the heart of the debate over BP's sponsorship of the arts. The argument is straightforward enough – it's time to batten down the hatches and ignore the storm of protest, because without organisations such as BP the arts might simply cease to exist.

Responding to Jones yesterday, the artist John Jordan suggested one problem with this approach: that art risks selling its soul. BP's money is tainted, and it is hard to see how the company's reputation won't have a long-term impact on those who accept it. The spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the environmental scandal of the decade, but it won't be the last. And as BP strives to extract the last drops of oil from ever more remote regions of the planet, a whole new kind of reputational risk begins to emerge. Shocking images of oil-soaked pelicans will not be around for ever, but the consequences of climate change will be with us for the rest of the century.

Tate director Nicholas Serota needs to consider this risk carefully. Does his institution want to be associated with one of the world's biggest single sources of pollution? One that has actively lobbied to undermine clean energy, pouring huge sums into industry groups that campaign to lower carbon taxes and weaken climate legislation? BP's alternative energy business is a plaything of former boss Lord Browne that has been consigned to the corporate rubbish tip. For these reasons and others, BP is certain to remain the focus of environmental resistance and public anger for years to come. Similarly, those who choose to lend the company an air of acceptability by receiving corporate sponsorship will continue to be seen as legitimate targets for protest around the world. This movement is still in its infancy, but will only gather in strength.

The second problem simply concerns credibility. The Tate website proudly proclaims its ethical policy, announcing that it will not accept funds from a donor who has "acted, or is believed to have acted, illegally in the acquisition of funds". As lawmakers on Capitol Hill put the final touches to a series of massive lawsuits, and criminal prosecutions loom on the horizon, it is hard to find a single individual who claims that BP has acted in compliance with the law. Far more compelling, though, is the Tate's stated ambition to demonstrate "leadership in response to climate change". If ever there were a moment to show such leadership, this is surely it. Tate has a unique opportunity to demonstrate that one of the UK's most progressive institutions is prepared to take meaningful steps to show its opposition to carbon-intensive industry. Currently, it refuses to even acknowledge BP's record as an issue, relying instead on bland statements that mention only the longevity of BP's financial support. There is clearly a disconnect, and behind closed doors there must be real uneasiness in the boardroom – not to mention the membership.

The issue here is not sponsorship per se, but choices. Over the past few days a number of commentators have pointed out that tobacco companies are now seen as an unacceptable partner for any self-respecting artistic body, but for some reason oil companies are still welcome to the private view. This comes despite human rights abuses, refinery explosions, the destruction of entire ecosystems, and political interference on a historic scale. You have to wonder why. Sure, BP probably offers slightly more money than the other companies vying for the sponsorship deal. They probably don't interfere too much, either (some might say that they know a thing or two about secrecy and discretion). But the fact is that there must be a host of other companies out there who actually fit the existing ethical policy of these organisations, and a relatively small financial hit is surely worth the reputational protection such a deal would provide.

By now you might be asking what all the fuss is about. After all, it's only a small logo on a programme, a discreet thank you at the bottom of the catalogue. Jones says: "I must have seen the BP logo a thousand times on press releases and it never lodged in my mind." But ask any branding expert: it's exactly this kind of subliminal association that gives a brand its identity. Until the Gulf of Mexico disaster, BP's green sunflower was found only in carefully selected locations designed to give the company an air of clean, British authority: Covent Garden, the National Portrait awards, a new exhibition at the Tate. These are some of our best loved pastimes, and for BP this feelgood factor is simply priceless. Their executives do not sponsor the arts as a way of "giving something back", or because they truly believe in opera, or painting, or culture. They simply believe in winning political and cultural aquiescence in the ugly business of oil extraction, and the sponsorship deals allow them to do just that. The millions BP spends on our artistic institutions represents an absolute bargain. Unfortunately, it is the rest of society that is being ripped off.


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June 15 2010

Chris Dercon to direct Tate Modern

Munich's Haus der Kunst chief, 52, aims to create 'a new kind of art institution' when he takes over in spring 2011

Tate Modern has a new director to steer it along the tricky path of international popularity and contemporary relevance. The appointment of Chris Dercon, from Munich's Haus der Kunst, was confirmed today, and the 52-year-old promises to bring his enthusiasm for "mixing it up" to the banks of the Thames when he takes over in spring 2011.

As director of the Munich gallery since 2003, he brought in an arts programme that featured architecture, fashion, design and film, and set up major exhibitions on Gerhard Richter and Anish Kapoor. He also curated the exhibition Amrita Sher-Gil: An Indian Artist Family of the 20th Century, which was at Tate Modern in 2006. More recently, Dercon has worked with architects Rem Koolhaas and Herzog & de Meuron on the renovation of the Haus der Kunst itself. Useful experience for the expanding Tate site.

From 1996 to 2003, Dercon was director of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, which he renovated and expanded too. While there, he was asked how he ranked contemporary artists. "Only a real misanthrope would dare to state that this or that artist is overrated," he said. "I guess I can say that one artist is more important than another one. But, even so, it is more appropriate to judge individual works of art." A diplomat, then.

Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, welcomed the signing. "Chris Dercon has made some outstanding exhibitions in Munich and has demonstrated a commitment to showing art from across the world. We are delighted that he has agreed to lead the team that is taking Tate Modern into its second decade."

Dercon himself said: "Transforming Tate Modern is an incredibly inspiring challenge, allowing us the chance to create a new kind of art institution, fit for the 21st century and London's many different audiences. Thanks to its exceptional staff, Tate Modern is constantly evolving, almost like an art movement in itself. Indeed, it is many things for many people and I am thrilled that I will be part of it."


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April 24 2010

Artists, critics and readers on 10 years of Tate Modern

To celebrate Tate Modern's 10th birthday, we asked the art world – and our readers – to put their questions to its director, Nicholas Serota

Next month, it will be 10 years since Tate Modern first opened its doors. Not only is it not showing its age, it is still, as you approach it across the Millennium bridge, a thrilling sight – the incredible hulk of it across the river, the sense that the building itself is, before you have even glanced at any of the art inside it, an event. Since it opened, 45 million people have visited and many of its exhibitions have been crowd-pullers: Matisse, Picasso, Hopper, Warhol, Dali, Rothko… It is also dedicated to showing challenging new work by less well known artists. And in its dramatic Turbine Hall, the sense is that anything could be given house room if it deserved it – from Louise Bourgeois's towers (I Do, I Undo, I Redo, 2000; her tremendous steel spider had to wait outside) to Olafur Eliasson's The Weather Project in 2003 or Rachel Whiteread's Embankment (2005) – heaped white boxes, like sugar lumps for giants.

The man behind – or rising above – all this, Nicholas Serota, has been in the job from the start. Tate Modern was his vision, and it still is, as he forges ahead with a £215m extension. Serota is often seen as a severe arbiter of artistic taste. And because he can look austere – especially when a camera is pointed at him – I had assumed a corresponding angularity of mind. What a pleasure to discover that I could not have been more mistaken. I found him charming from the word go. There was a question I was longing to ask him – before posing the questions from our readers and members of the art world – about his survival. What has kept him in his job – and at the top?

"Going into artists' studios and seeing new work," he replied without hesitation, "and realising it is as difficult to understand as it was 20 years ago. Artists are always challenging us to think again, to look again at the world and find new ways of discovering ourselves. Every time I go into a studio – and often when I go into a gallery – I find myself challenged and think: life is beginning all over again."

Serota's warmth, acuity and dedication – not to mention the amused gleam in his eye – make it easy to understand exactly why he has more than prospered in his job. His passion for art is unmistakable in everything he says. When I asked about his own personal highlights over the last 10 years, he described the "incredible" first day – 12 May 2000 – that Tate Modern opened "after seven years of working, with so many people, to create this extraordinary institution. The Turbine Hall had been empty for months and to see people come down that ramp and take possession of the building – make it theirs rather than ours – was a great moment."

Later, he described his own nifty version of taking possession of the place. In 2006, Carsten Holler installed colossal silver slides – a playground for grownups. Serota recalls the press day: "The press had been in for about three minutes. "Are you going to be the first down?" they asked. I found myself obliged to go to the longest slide, right at the top, and slide into a pen of press." This, he insists, was "great fun". But his most cherished memories are of making exhibitions: "Cy Twombly with Cy, the Donald Judd and Barnett Newman exhibitions. All these have been great shows to make and present at Tate Modern."

In the hour that followed – in which Serota was grilled on every possible subject – I was struck by the care with which he answered each question and his visible interest in the different ways in which people think about art – and Tate Modern. He was curious, often amused but never dismissive. There is so much to celebrate – and marvel at – as the Tate turns 10: "The astonishing thing to remember is that this is a part of London people didn't visit 10 years ago. I remember, just before we opened, one of our trustees, who had always been sceptical about Tate Modern, saying: 'But how are people going to find it?'" Ten years on, that is a joke question.

WHAT THE ART WORLD ASKED SEROTA

Amanda Sharp Co-director of Frieze

What was the first piece of art that mattered to you?

Turner's Norham Castle, Sunrise. I was 14 years old.

Chapman brothers Artists

If Tate Modern were on fire, which work of art would you save?

I could be flippant and say Jake and Dinos's works aren't on view at the moment, so I wouldn't have the luxury of saving one of them. Oh God – duty would compel me to try and save Matisse's The Snail. It is one of my favourite works, an incredible masterpiece. Or the Rothkos. So many things have become favourites in recent years – Rebecca Horn's Concert for Anarchy – the upside-down piano that hangs and disgorges its interior. The Gerhard Richter paintings we acquired three years ago. But on reflection I would probably choose work by Oiticica. A fire at the estate where Oiticica's work is kept destroyed an enormous amount of it. Little now exists in the world.

Damien Hirst Artist (pictured below)

All children paint and draw, but most of them stop as they get older. Why do you think that is?

Young people paint and draw to express their ideas and vision. The danger is that, as they get older, they feel the need to conform to other people's conventions, so start to be more deliberate and representational in the way they work. Great artists fight that, whether it be a David Hockney or a Tracey Emin. They try to preserve an apparently childish vision, their innocence.

Martin Creed Artist

What were you into when you were 10?

It wasn't art. It was sailing.

Mark Titchner Artist

The past 10 years have seen an explosion of interest in contemporary art. Has art primarily become a form of entertainment?

No, but I was looking at something the other day that reminded me that, in the mid-19th century, Charles Eastlake, director of the National Gallery, spoke to a parliamentary select committee about how he kept seeing people in the National Gallery having picnics. He found it extraordinary that they had come in for reasons other than looking at art. The same kinds of complaint are made about people at Tate Modern. But they are here. They are finding out about themselves, they are looking at art – maybe out of the corner of their eye – but they learn something and come back. And that is all that really matters.

Bob and Roberta Smith Artist

When you wake up in the morning, what is the painting or artwork in front of you in your bedroom?

A small, early 20th-century Indian watercolour in a traditional form of miniature. It is two figures dancing. A great image to wake up to.

Ben Bradshaw Secretary of state for culture, media and sport

How important to Tate Modern's success was it that government investment allowed it to be free for everyone from the day it opened its doors?

Interestingly, the commitment to Tate Modern was made not by the Labour government but by a Conservative government, in 1995, when Virginia Bottomley supported the creation of Tate Modern. So Tate Modern has, in a sense, been a crossparty invention. Tate had always been free and we had maintained we wanted it to be free. It opened and then other institutions that had been charging were enabled by Chris Smith [former culture secretary] and government to remove the charges in 2001. There was never any question about charging admission at Tate Modern. But the government support we have had has been crucial to its success. Chris Smith, Tessa Jowell and others have been supportive. We have needed government revenue to sustain Tate Modern in spite of its success and they have been very helpful in that.

Victoria Miro Gallerist, Victoria Miro Gallery

Tate Modern has made huge progress in building the collection, most recently in securing important gifts, such as Anthony d'Offay's Artist Rooms. What is your focus for the collection over the coming decade?

Not only do we have to concentrate on buying art of the last 10 or 15 years, we also have to recognise that we want to buy not just in north-west Europe and North America. In the past 10 years, we have been trying to represent Latin American art seriously. We have recently formed a group that will help us buy art from the Middle East and north Africa. The world has changed so dramatically in the last 15 years – not least because of information exchange and the fact that artists move across the world so much more easily than they ever did. Eastern Europe is an area we didn't look at in the 60s and 70s – we are trying to catch up. But we won't neglect British artists – or artists from western Europe.

The other area in which we are making a big effort is photography. There is a great collection of 19th-century photography at the V&A. But the 20th-century representation of photography in the national collections is not as strong as it should be. We have recently acquired a photography curator, Simon Baker, and I hope in the next five years we will make real strides in building a strong collection of photography.

Nicholas Logsdail Gallerist, Lisson Gallery

What will you be asking the next government to do to ensure the continued success and development of visual arts and culture in the UK?

I would like them to put more value into art education. Art schools have suffered in recent years. It would also help if the government were prepared to put more money into the collecting of contemporary art by regional galleries so people had the opportunity to have regular encounters with contemporary art in the way they are able to at Tate Modern. It is striking that until about the 1960s and 70s, most regional galleries and museums were collecting contemporary art in a serious way. In the past 30 years, it has been difficult for them to do so.

That has been the purpose of Tate Modern's Artist Rooms. Anthony D'Offay's great vision, in giving these works of art, has made it possible for people to encounter Warhol or Beuys or Jeff Koons or Jannis Kounellis in a gallery within 50 miles of where they live.

Christopher Frayling Writer and former chair, Arts Council

Do you wish your distant predecessors at the Tate had been more adventurous and imaginative in their acquisitions of modern paintings and sculptures for the permanent collection at a time when art was much more affordable?

The lesson is that we have to focus on buying the art of today rather than on the art of the past. We can never catch up. Of course I regret that the gallery is not filled with Picassos, Matisses and great Braques and Legers from the early part of the 20th century. But the success of Tate Modern has been that we are able to take advantage of the fact that the collection is strong in the last 20 or 30 years and can use that as a starting point from which to look back rather than regarding the past as the great pinnacle from which one descends down the slopes into the present.

Sadie Coles Gallerist, Sadie Coles HQ

The acquisition budgets of Tate and other UK museums cannot keep up with the contemporary art market. When an artist is emerging and the museum could afford their work, it is too early to commit, and when they are established, the work is priced out of reach. So huge gaps appear in the collection. Is there any chance of having a similar system to the US, where there is a partial tax benefit to the donor of art?

It is an anomaly that you can get a tax benefit if your estate gives a work of art to a national museum when you die, but you cannot get a tax benefit during your lifetime. It would make a big difference to donations of works of art to museums by collectors if there were such a tax benefit. We have been campaigning for it and – every now and again – it seems as though we are going to get there. I hope, with a new administration coming in, to renew the argument.

Matthew Stone Artist

Does art change the world?

It changes the way we understand the world. That is what artists do. It can't change political and social and economic circumstances.

... AND WHAT OUR READERS WANTED TO KNOW

Mary Desmond Painter, Rome, Italy

For the average punter it is sometimes difficult, with the sophisticated machines of spin at work, to separate an artist's worth from the hype. What two or three artists whom you have met have most impressed you?

I remember doing an exhibition with Joseph Beuys in 1974 – an artist around whom there was a lot of myth and hype. I am privileged in having the opportunity to spend time with artists and engage with them. And the hype just falls away. The job of the curatorial team here, among other things, is to look at those artists who aren't in the spotlight and try to bring forward their work. Either the work speaks to you or it doesn't. Hype is about something else. Sometimes hype gets in the way of looking and you can be discouraged. You have to see your way through it.

Henry Iddon Photographer, Cleveleys, Lancashire

Should Tate Modern only show work by established figures? Is there any effort to look "under the radar" and seek out innovative work produced by those unable to connect with the big money global art scene?

It depends how far below the radar. We would argue Tate takes more risks than equivalent organisations in Europe and America in terms of acquisition and showing work by younger, less established artists. But we are also there to give our public an opportunity to see Warhol or Twombly. We have to do both.

Nonito Rosello Freelance writer/PR, London

1) If you were a work of art, which one would you be and why?

I would be one of the dancers in Picasso's Three Dancers. It would be great. It is an amazing painting – full of mystery and surprise. It is a little bit threatening too.

2) And if you could invite three people to dinner (no matter which era or whether dead or alive) who would they be?

One would be Van Dyke. I would love to have met him because he was such an incredible, swashbuckling character. He would have made a pretty lively dinner companion, I think. And Turner would be quite good. And Louise Bourgeois. A strange combination. But Louise would be – is – an extraordinary dinner companion. And she would make her way [with the other two].

Glen Tarman Charity manager, Wapping, London

In a time of climate change, will you stop sponsorship by oil companies so we can visit Tate and enjoy great art without being complicit in climate chaos?

The first thing to say is we have support from BP, which as a company is looking at renewable energy as well as using up fossil fuels and using oil. We have long had support from them and are not intending to abandon it. But we are committed to addressing issues posed by climate change. Tate has made some big strides in terms of carbon reduction and bringing that to the attention of other people in the world.

Clive Parkinson Director, Arts for Health, Manchester

The Tate has made great strides to engage new audiences, but there are vast swathes of the population who believe the arts have nothing to do with them. How will the Tate address this?

We have to try to make people across the country aware they are welcome. If you come to the Long Weekend, you will see tens of thousands of people enjoying a visit to Tate Modern, many of whom are coming for the first time. We can also do it through Tate Online (we are redesigning the website so people can get access to all the rich layers of it – some of which have been slightly buried). Of course there will be people we don't reach. Yet I believe the arts can appeal to many more people than is supposed.

Bridget McKenzie Director, Flow Associates, London

What are the main justifications you use when fundraising for the new Tate Modern extension? How do you feel an extension in London will deliver £215m worth of cultural learning compared to the potential value of spending that money on, for example, supporting museums at risk of closure, filling rural gaps or increasing digital access to culture?

There is a place for a large flagship organisation of the kind Tate Modern represents that is able to bring together the best art, large audiences, a strong learning programme and show things can be done in new ways. Spreading money thinly across the country would not have the same impact. I believe money should be spent in the regions, but a lot of the money collected for Tate Modern comes from places and individuals who want to see a great organisation in the centre of London. If it were all public money, it might be different. We have five million visitors a year. We will have more. Anyone who visits at weekends knows how overcrowded the gallery is. Anyone who tries to subscribe to our learning programmes knows they are wildly oversubscribed. So we have to grow. Every museum of modern art has grown in the last 20 or 30 years. The Museum of Modern Art in New York almost doubled its size five years ago, the Pompidou Centre increased by one third, eight or nine years ago. We have an expanding collection and need to have space to show that collection. If we don't grow, people will stop giving us things – they will think they are simply going into the basement.

Jolyon Gumbrell Writer and website editor, Dorset

Has abstract and conceptual art had its day? Does figurative and representational art have a better future?

What happened in the late Sixties was equivalent to what happened with cubism. It was a new way of describing the world that looked dry and impenetrable to many people for many years, but underpinned a great deal of the art we now admire in the 20th century. The same is true of conceptual art. People describe as "conceptual" almost any work of art that has deep thought embodied in it, rather than simply the representation of an object on a canvas. By those standards, almost all the great art of the last 10 or 15 years has been conceptual because it has dealt with ideas as well as images.

Kate Butler PR consultant, Manchester

Can the arts be funded through philanthropy or have the Tories got it wrong?

The arts can be assisted by philanthropy and individual giving is an important part of the Tate's income and will increasingly be so, but we cannot rely on individual philanthropy. Even those institutions in America regarded as private get huge support from the state – not least by way of tax incentives offered to donors.

Amy Budd Research assistant, London

Last year, a minor feminist art revolution took place in Paris as the Pompidou Centre rehung its collection with an emphasis on women artists. Might something comparable happen at Tate Modern?

I don't think we will do a show equivalent to the Pompidou's but we are determined to show more work by women. Two years ago, we bought the most magnificent work by a neglected arte povera artist called Marisa Merz. It was made in 1966. It is as good as anything made by her husband, Mario, or other arte povera artists. It had sat, in her studio, uncared for, for nearly 40 years. We thought it a major work and decided we should bring it into the collection. We're doing that kind of thing all the time. The work of women artists is prominently displayed but in the context of a whole history. We don't privilege their work for six months then take it away and never show it again. And we don't buy work because it is by women. We buy work that is strong, capable of holding its place in the collection.

Jason Fleet Freelance graphic designer, Bristol

Why don't you have more Brit Art in Tate Modern's collection?

We have a great deal of art by that generation, the YBA, in the collection. We show it at Tate Britain, we show it at Tate Modern. We don't have a corner devoted to Brit Art but we don't have a corner devoted to any art – we try to integrate it. And if you look through the collection, you'll find it. We do have great works by Rachel Whiteread, by Damien Hirst, by Gary Hume.

Peter Kettle Painter, Hellingly, east Sussex

I don't share your view of art as revealed in Tate Modern. Most of the work on display illustrates a narrow attitude to the art of our times. You are as orthodox, dogmatic, conventional and blinkered as the academies of a hundred years ago. Modernism in all its forms is now over a century old, and sclerotic. I would relish the chance to curate a show with all the ignored movements and painters of the last century. How would you defend yourself from these charges?

I would need to understand which movements and painters the questioner had in mind. If you come to Tate Modern, you will see a wide range of work. Some of it is in an academic tradition of realism. You will see great movements of the 20th century, including surrealism, which changed the way we understand the world. You will see an astonishing range of contemporary art. It isn't a single view. People have given us major works. Not everything here is determined by my taste or the curator's taste. If you come to the Tate with an open mind, you are bound (with the exception of this questioner) to find something interesting and engaging.


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