The Tate’s Director Stirs A Little More Controversy
Fresh on the heels of the tut-tutting over his role advising Dasha Zhukova and the potential conflict posed, Sir Nicholas Serota gets the British papers rolling on the subject of his re-appointment. It seems the Prime Minister never signed off on the Tate boards decision to make the 62-year-old’s job permanent. The controversy merely gives some of Sir Nicholas’s opponents an opportunity to vent. Nonetheless, Serota’s legacy, as this brief summary suggests, is pretty one-sided:
Sir Nicholas’ governance of the Tate has had notable successes: Tate Modern was built and attracts masses of visitors; the Turner Prize generates publicity; shrewd exhibition choices at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall have been commended across the world. He has become an international figure of note, recognised as a champion of contemporary art. The Tate Modern hopes to build an ambitious £215m extension, his brainchild.
Art Historian Bevis Hillier: “he seems sincerely misguided, and sincerely sold on all that rubbish that the likes of Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst produce consisting of filthy beds and misspelt words. There is a conspiracy within the art world to commend this sort of work between artists, art dealers and critics, and I think Nicholas Serota stands at the top of his unspoken conspiracy.”
Meanwhile, The Independent weighs in with an editorial strongly in support of Sir Nicholas:
The extent of the Serota influence on art in Britain worries some, who fear that one man with a personal passion for a cutting-edge contemporary art can distort the national picture. But a look at the range of what Sir Nicholas has done disproves this.
On the other hand, Charles Thomson thinks Serota is hopelessly conflicted:
All artist trustees during Serota’s tenure have had works acquired by the gallery, in one case fifty works. Thomas Hoving, former director at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, had this to say on the Tate’s acquisition of Ofili’s work: “To think they thought there’s not even a perception of a conflict … For goodness’ sake, it’s so obvious.”
But Serota seems to have had the last laugh by visiting the Stuckists on their own turf and revealing that their motives were less than disinterested. The Independent’s Paul Vallely puts in the final word in favor of Serota even from someone who’s not so friendly to Serota’s curatorial point of view:
The man, whose critics may call him cold, intense and unnervingly inscrutable, is undoubtedly an operator. But he is also an enthusiast and an innovator who has clearly not run out of ideas or the drive to bring them to fruition. He deserves another seven years. We will all reap the benefit of them.
Serota gets a job for life at the Tate – but how come No 10 wasn’t told? (The Independent)
Artistic Endeavor (The Independent)
Betrayal of Trustees at Tate (Counterpunch.org)
Tate That: Serota Defies His Critics (The Independent)