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.
One of the most hotly anticipated blockbuster exhibitions on the art world's horizon has been pushed back after organizers raised concerns over images evoking racist violence in certain works. After its original planned summer opening was delayed until
2021 because of the pandemic, a high-profile Philip Guston retrospective organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Tate Modern in London, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston has now been put on hold for
A joint statement signed by directors of all four museums said the exhibition was being pushed until a time at which we think that the powerful message of social and racial justice that is at the center of Philip Guston's work can be more
We recognize that the world we live in is very different from the one in which we first began to collaborate on this project five years ago. The racial justice movement that started in the U.S. and
radiated to countries around the world, in addition to challenges of a global health crisis, have led us to pause.
Organizers raised concerns over painful imagery including the recurring Ku Klux Klan characters that appear in Guston's
late-period works. Twenty-five such drawings and paintings featuring KKK imagery were to be included in one or more iterations of the show.
The postponement has been met with opposition from Musa Mayer, the artist's daughter and head
of the Guston Foundation. Mayer said in a statement:
Half a century ago, my father made a body of work that shocked the art world. Not only had he violated the canon of what a noted abstract artist should be painting at a
time of particularly doctrinaire art criticism, but he dared to hold up a mirror to white America, exposing the banality of evil and the systemic racism we are still struggling to confront today.
They plan, they plot, they ride
around in cars smoking cigars. We never see their acts of hatred. We never know what is in their minds. But it is clear that they are us. Our denial, our concealment. My father dared to unveil white culpability, our shared role in allowing the racist
terror that he had witnessed since boyhood, when the Klan marched openly by the thousands in the streets of Los Angeles.
The art historian and curator Darby English told the New York Times that the decision to postpone the show was
cowardly and patronizing, an insult to art and the public alike:
Guston's paintings were thoughtfully created in identification with history's victims, English said, adding that it should be part of one's attitude to see
them as opportunities to think, to improve thinking, to sharpen perception, to talk to one another, and not to grimly proceed with one's head in the sand, avoiding difficult conversations because you think the timing is bad.
A group of Thai academics and experts told a Parliament committee that crackdowns on arts deemed inappropriate to Buddhism is a danger to Thailand's creativity.
In a meeting with the House Committee of Religions, Arts and Culture, Chulalongkorn
University political scientist Bundit Chanrochanakit and fellow panelists advised the government to back off from regulating artistic expression. The meeting was held in the wake of a recent order to erase a temple mural denounced by local officials as
Bundit pointed to the pressure to remove mural figures at a temple in Uthai Thani that appears to show Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and his deputy, Prawit Wongsuwan, drowning with demons who attempted to stop Lord Buddha from
The figures were eventually painted over after local officials paid a visit and demanded the censorship.
Bundit cited another case of controversy over artists' interpretation of religious topics: the Ultraman Buddha
painting by an art student in September. The artist was forced to apologize after hardline Buddhist officials accused her of disrespect to their religion by depicting Buddha as a Japanese superhero, Ultraman.