Tate announced today that its director, Nicholas Serota, plans to leave the institution sometime next year, after 28 years at the helm of the museum network. The announcement brings to an end one of the most illustrious museum careers of the past quarter-century, a run that was just capped earlier this year by the opening of a massive expansion to Tate Modern. No exact date has been released for his departure.
The chairman of Tate, Lord Browne, said in a statement, “We have all been privileged to have in Nicholas Serota one of the world’s greatest museum directors and a leader for the visual arts on a global stage. Under his leadership Tate has become a preeminent cultural organization nationally and internationally and one of the most visited in the world.”
Serota, or Sir Nicholas, as he is styled as a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour, became the director of Tate in 1988, after serving for 12 years as the director of the Whitechapel Gallery in London. Prior to that, he was the director of Modern Art Oxford (then known by the name Museum of Modern Art, Oxford).
That long reign at Tate has been marked by remarkable changes, including the opening of Tate St. Ives in a former gasworks in 1993 and the inauguration of Tate Modern, in the former Bankside Power Station on the Thames, transformed by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron in 2000.
Tate Modern, with its cavernous Turbine Hall and the monumental commissions staged there by artists like Ai Weiwei and Olafur Eliasson, has become one of the defining landmarks of the contemporary art landscape over the past two decades, and one of the most popular, drawing about 4.71 million visitors in 2015.
“Over the past 30 years there has been a sea-change in public appreciation of the visual arts in this country,” Serota, who is 70, said in a statement. “Tate is proud to have played a part in this transformation alongside other national and regional museums and the new galleries that have opened across the country in places like Walsall, Margate, Wakefield, Gateshead and Nottingham.”
Tate said that Serota will take up the chairmanship of the Arts Council, a part-time position, next February, and step down sometime after that.
In a delightful “Lunch With the FT” interview in 2012, four years after being made a “permanent employee” at Tate (he had previously been on seven-year contracts), he hinted that he was beginning to think about his exit. “I shouldn’t outstay my welcome,” he said. “Everything needs renewal. I don’t expect to be carried feet-first out of Tate.”