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Tate’s Acquisitions: 500 Artworks in Two Years

Britain’s Tate museum has revealed detailed financial information about its acquisitions during the period from April 2004-March 2006. According to a biennial report released on Sept. 18, the Tate purchased £12.2 million ($22.1 million) worth of art, was given or bequeathed £10.2 million ($18.5 million), and acquired a total of 500 works during this two-year

LONDON—Britain’s Tate museum has revealed detailed financial information about its acquisitions during the period from April 2004-March 2006. According to a biennial report released on Sept. 18, the Tate purchased £12.2 million ($22.1 million) worth of art, was given or bequeathed £10.2 million ($18.5 million), and acquired a total of 500 works during this two-year time.

The clarification comes on the heels of a critical review released on July 19 by the Charity Commission, the regulator and registrar for charities in England and Wales. The commission issued the review after investigating the Tate’s handling of a conflict of interest over its controversial £600,000 ($1.1 million) purchase of The Upper Room, 1999-2002, from artist Chris Ofili, the 1998 Turner Prize-winner, who was a trustee at the time (ANL, 12/20/05).

Stated Andrew Hind, chief executive of the Charity Commission: “[We] identified some important gaps in the Tate’s policies and practices. In addition to the Tate’s failure to seek our permission, we also found serious shortcomings in the processes for managing conflicts of interest, and inadequate recording of decision-making. In any charity, we would be concerned that such basic matters were neglected, but in a charity of the size and stature of the Tate, we are very disappointed.”

The review specified that “the acquisitions were in the interests of the charity and should stand, but [the Commission] has highlighted deficiencies in the Tate’s policies and called for significant improvements to be made.” The review further noted that the Tate “accepted the Commission’s conclusions and has already taken important steps to strengthen its processes for managing conflicts of interest and acquisitions.”

‘More Open than Ever’

Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota and chairman Sir Paul Myners (who also chairs the Guardian Media Group) have promised a new era of transparency and openness. According to a statement from Myners, the Tate is “seeking to anticipate areas [in which] we can be more open and responsive to enquiries. We are now in a situation where institutions are expected to be more open than ever with their stakeholders.”

Besides acquiring the Ofili sculpture in the period under scrutiny, the Tate spent £591,000 ($1.1 million) for an oil-and-resin-on-canvas work by Francis Picabia, Otaïti, 1930; £130,000 ($236,080) for Fates, 2005, a 54-panel piece by Gilbert & George; and £816,623 ($1.48 million) for two works by Sigmar Polke, Untitled (Triptych), and Untitled (Square 2). Additionally, the museum bought a letter, dated September 1932 and directed to Tate Gallery director JB Manson, from Sir Gerald Festus Kelly, for £41, or $74.

“They’ve made some very good acquisitions,” London dealer Martin Summers told ARTnewsletter, noting the purchases of works by Joshua Reynolds, Richard Dadd, Anish Kapoor and John Latham.

Until now, details of the Tate’s spending on art have been a closely guarded secret. In its September report, however, the institution not only listed its recent acquisitions but announced future plans—including upcoming exhibitions, such as a major William Hogarth (1697-1764) show; a retrospective of all the Turner prizes since the award’s inception in 1984; and a special commission by Jake and Dinos Chapman.

The Chapmans have been commissioned to create a two-room work at Tate Britain, for exhibit at the end of next January. In the same month, says Tate Britain director Stephen Deuchar, a commission from Mark Wallinger—whose sculpture Ecce homo stood on the plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square in 1999—will be unveiled in the museum’s Duveen gallery. “I can’t reveal anything about its contents,” Deuchar adds, “but it will be hugely newsworthy.”

The Tate has been pursuing a concerted policy of widening its collection, setting up an endowment fund that, as its basis, has £10 million in insurance money it acquired after two works byJ.M.W. Turner, stolen in 1994, were recovered. (As a result of an agreement between Tate and the insurers, a balance remained in Tate’s favor.)

The institution’s shopping list has been focused, in part, on increasing its holdings of modern Latin American art; and on acquiring works by British and European artists the likes of Ian Hamilton Finlay, Latham and Martin Kippenberger.

Some observers feel that the Tate missed the boat with artists such as Damien Hirst—his pieces, once relative bargains, are now multimillion-dollar works. The Tate, however, owns only three major Hirst pieces. To compensate, it set up a plan in 2004 whereby artists were encouraged to donate their works. Of the 20 or more who agreed to do so, including Hirst, only four have actually handed over their gifts to date.

Serota says he has not yet received any work from Hirst but has been “in discussions with him about how he might best be represented in the Tate.”

Among the Tate’s Top Purchases from 2004-2006

Sir Joshua Reynolds, Colonel Acland and Lord Sydney . . . £3.2M ($5.8M)

Richard Parkes Bonington, French Coast with Fisherman £1.28M ($2.3M)

Sigmar Polke, Untitled (Triptych); Untitled (Square 2) £816,623 ($1.48M)

Chris Ofili, The Upper Room £600,000 ($1M)

Francis Picabia, Otaïti £591,000 ($1.1 M)

Luciano Fabro, Foot: Clotheshanger of the North £400,857 ($727,956)

Anish Kapoor, Ishi’s Light £483,333 ($877,732)

Michelangelo Pistoletto, Venus of the Rags £413,435 ($750,800)

Andrea Soldi, Portrait of Henry Lannoy Hunter . . . £245,000 ($444,920)

Willem Wissing, Portrait of Henrietta and Mary Hyde £200,000 ($363,200)

Gilbert & George, Named £157,327 ($285,705)

Richard Dadd, Wandering Musicians £140,000 ($254,240)

Source: Tate Report 2004-2006

CHARLOTTE HIGGINS

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