Editorial – May 2017

TATEBRITAINNEEDSITS IDENTITY BACK

In recent issues I’ve described how since 1945 the education, bureaucracy and exponentially increasing cash for the visual arts have been usurped and dominated by an evolving one-track mindset which, in these

pages, is called State Art. This sinister subversion of the institutions, predicted before and after the last google_ad_height = 90; war by Eliot, Wyndham Lewis

​ and Orwell among others, is complete with the recent appointment of

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Doctor Balshaw as overall Director of the Tate (see last editorial). She understands nothing but that which is ‘Contemporary’, a qualification (if that is an appropriate description) which makes her uniquely unsuitable for running three galleries with what should be historical and scholarly functions.

The sad truth now is that the Tate has become a gallery of contemporary art google_ad_width = 970; with a marginalised historical concession on

the side, whereas its original function
was the reverse of this. The revolution that has

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taken place for
this

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to happen over the last half century is an object lesson in change by incremental stealth. It is the perfect demonstration of what Rudi Dutschke meant when, confronted with the fact that a successful immediate proletarian revolution was impossible in
western Europe, he referred to the necessity to operate clandestinely from

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inside, a process he famously dubbed “the long march through the institutions”. This would, he predicted, google_ad_width = 970; lead to the eventual substitution of one establishment by another independent of any popular support. And in the case of the contemporary visual arts this means a far more repressive, hidebound and authoritarian regime than the one it replaced.

Writing in 1971

at Tate Modern but it isn’t a prejudice appropriate at Tate Britain or the two satellites reliant on its historical collection. These galleries //--> should show and research what is established and not that which is either speculative, market driven or the current whim of a dominant, highly prejudiced clique of curators and their favourite dealers.

 

And so it is urgently necessary to split off Tate Modern from the

rest of the franchise. A different ethos must

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apply at Tate Britain, a gallery whose historical
works
should be src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"> its justification not its embarrassment. Not all the Tate’s galleries should have to pay the necessary lip service to Schapiro’s “uniform pattern” demanded by State Art, as is currently the

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case.

This dismantling of Serota’s unwieldy empire has been mooted before but now he’s gone for good it’s an urgent necessity, especially when we have google_ad_height = 90; a scholarly nobody in charge of the world’s most important collection of historical British src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"> art. It is a serious crime of negligence to abandon the organisation to the leadership it has. Having someone in charge of

Tate Britain who has no credibility in the history of
British Art might be fine in a gallery of contemporary art – even then it’s not exactly desirable – but it is perverse in an institution which began life

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in 1897 as the National Gallery of British Art ­– which was, incidentally, run

until 1954 by the National Gallery.

Tate Britain today is heading relentlessly in the direction of becoming a museum of Modern and Contemporary British art with some history attached. If you have a person in charge whose knowledge stretches back google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; only to the week before last this continued drift is inevitable.

style="font-weight: 400;">The space for work before 1920 is constantly being squeezed. Currently the building is split into three parts. The vast middle strip, the Duveen Galleries, is customarily wasted promoting an over-rated contemporary. At the moment it is White Cuber Cerith Wyn Evans with sprawling,

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incoherent patterns of white neon tubing signifying only he knows what. A ‘Senior Curator of Contemporary //--> Art’ writes of this piece on an ‘information’ board: “In

this commission CWE has google_ad_height = 90; responded to the space of the Duveen Galleries by creating /* 9-970x90 */ a

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neon installation which focuses on ideas around the folds and flows of energy via material and immaterial conduits.” Only the author knows what that means. So the gallery’s middle third is wasted.

The eastern third is modern British art since

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roughly 1920, much of it minor and nearly all
of it illustrative of the Modernist Creed. At the far end Hockney currently occupies galleries which usually act
as a graveyard for the latest Turner
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Prize. In the front corner is the Turner annexe, now also used to house Constables which used to
live in what is google_ad_width = 970; a new ‘installation’

from celebrated.

Tate Britain urgently needs it own identity. The current regime will not deliver this because all they are capable of understanding is “material and immaterial conduits”.

David Lee
The Jackdaw May/Jun 2017