Tate Britain is expected to permanently close its restaurant because of a controversy over an historic artwork created nearly a century ago.
Rex Whistler's mural The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats , which was painted specifically for the
restaurant in 1927, has recently been criticised because of its politically incorrect portrayal of non-Europeans. Moya Greene, until last month a Tate trustee and chair of its 'Ethics' Committee, reported back to the gallery's board. She told fellow
trustees that committee members were unequivocal in their view that the imagery of the work is offensive. In addition, they claim the offence is compounded by the use of the room as a restaurant.
Tate trustees were also advised that the Rex Whistler
mural is an important work of art in the care of trustees and that it should not be altered or removed. Although not a formally accessioned work, it forms part of a Grade I-listed interior.
Following the committee's advice, it seems almost certain
that the restaurant will never reopen. It was closed in March because of Covid-19, but did not reopen with the gallery displays last week.
The mural includes two small figures of bound black children who are probably enslaved and also depicts
caricatured Chinese people.
A Tate spokesman said:
We are taking this time to consult internally and externally on the future of the room and the mural, and we will keep the public informed of future plans. The
external consultation is expected to be launched early in the new year.