15 October 2012
Sir Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate
We require clarification of the process which has led to the decision by Tate Trustees. In particular, amongst other facts, we need to establish:
i. Whether Tate chair Lord Browne chaired the agenda item when Tate Trustees considered The Gift.
While no-one questions Lord Browne’s passion for the arts and that he has chaired Tate through a period of notable successes, questions remain about Tate decision-making when it relates to BP. Such decisions are a reflection, in part, on decisions made whilst Browne was still at the helm of the oil company.
Answers to Freedom of Information Act requests shows that Lord Browne has not stepped aside to date when BP sponsorship is under discussion by the Tate governing body.
Given this work references BP, was Lord Browne part of this decision?
ii. Whether Tate Trustees considered The Gift within the context of the Tate Sustainability Strategy it has agreed.
In declining The Gift Tate says that the work is not in line with the current strategy. Yet the Trustees have an agreed policy of working with artists and audiences to inspire new thinking around sustainability and Tate is committed “to find appropriate and imaginative ways to reflect the responses and commitment of artists [that] engage with environmental issues in their work and have chosen to be vocal in public debate … to maximise the potential for public engagement and discussion through art”. Clearly, The Gift meets the public criteria of this strategy.
In what way did Tate Trustees see The Gift as not fulfilling its own strategy and did Tate assess The Gift in the light of the policy in the Tate Sustainability Strategy?
iii. Whether Tate Trustees have also agreed a Size Strategy.
It would be a matter of some wider concern if Tate was declining offers due to size.
If Tate will not accept The Gift in part because of its size and pressure on care for the collection, is Tate not able to take any ‘big’ art?
iv. Whether Tate Trustees considered The Gift as art.
In your response, you refer to Liberate Tate’s The Gift as an ‘action’. It suggests that in your decision-making you did not consider the work as art.
If this suggestion is a correct understanding of your inference, please explain: how does Liberate Tate’s latest piece deviates from current formal definitions of art?
These are just four of the questions that need to be answered to understand whether a valid process has taken place.
Furthermore, we are in the process of submitting a Freedom of Information (FoI) request regarding the minutes of the 19 September meeting at which this decision was made and paper(s) sent to the Board about The Gift. Additionally we would welcome a copy of the notes from the meeting of the Tate internal Collections Group discussions of The Gift. We’d be grateful if you could forward these documents to us in advance. This will cut down on both of our later administration and speed up the process – for us and other stakeholders – to determine whether due and proper process has been applied.
We look forward to your reply and having the information requested supplied as soon as possible.