“With the opening of a new building adjoining the Tate Modern Bankside site, and the appointment of a new director, Dr Maria Balshaw, things seem buoyant at the Tate. Yet below the surface the organisation is headed towards crisis.
“Although you wouldn’t know it from the fawning accolades of newspaper profilers, Balshaw’s appointment alarms art historians. Balshaw, the new director of Britain’s largest fine-art museum, with four venues and £1.3 billion in assets, is not an art historian but a student of literature who attained a doctorate in critical theory, specialising in American authors. Critical theory is an academic branch of postmodernism that, preferring to concentrate on art’s ideological and social role, sees no qualitative difference between high and low (or popular) art forms. This might be a problematic grounding for the director of Britain’s largest collection of high art. Hitherto in her roles as head of the Whitworth and Manchester art galleries, she has demonstrated no detailed understanding of fine art or any willingness to defy fashion, exhibiting and collecting art on an agenda underpinned by identity politics and feminism.
“Indeed, Balshaw is a proactive and politically driven individual who will not be taking a backseat position. She has previously made statements that women and minority artists should be given a more prominent position in the arts world. As explained previously on spiked, the relatively low number of female artists in the Tate collection is due to historical restrictions on women artists that no longer exist. However, for feminists, that statistical imbalance justifies the promotion of women artists regardless of the quality of their art.
“If the Tate was a stable or manageable organisation, then a figurehead leader would be a viable proposition. Unfortunately, the Tate has huge and ever-increasing problems…”
Read the full article on on Spiked (25 September 2017) online here: http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/trouble-at-the-tate/20339#.Wcjg-LKGPIU
This is an extract of a long essay titled “New Order”, available in The Jackdaw, issue 135, available via: http://www.thejackdaw.co.uk
“”Is it even worse in Europe?’, a campaign launched by arts pressure group Guerrilla Girls at the beginning of October, implicitly criticises the apparent lack of diversity of the artists represented in European museums. ‘We focus on the understory, the subtext, the overlooked and the downright unfair’, state the Guerrilla Girls. ‘Art can’t be reduced to the small number of artists who have won a popularity contest among bigtime dealers, curators and collectors.’
“This is familiar territory for the Guerrilla Girls, who have been challenging the relative dearth of female artists in museum collections for years. Their principal charge is that institutional bias has led to the underrepresentation of female artists and artists from minority backgrounds.
“But the assumption that institutions are biased against certain sections of society doesn’t hold up….”
Read the full article on gender politics, identity politics and fine art on Spiked website, 29 October 2016 here: http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/a-guerrilla-attack-on-artistic-value/18903#.WBSUe_ldU5k
“Another example of censorship through petition power has come to light this month. An exhibition by Actionist Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch was scheduled to take place in February at Fundación Jumex, Ecatepec de Morelos, on the outskirts of Mexico City. But on 31 January it was cancelled. This followed an online petition against the Nitsch display, though, in its announcement, Jumex does not link the petition to the cancellation. The Nitsch exhibition has been replaced by a group exhibition of works by other artists in the Jumex collection – a mix of contemporary and modern art, including works by the usual names familiar from the network of state-supported museums, private foundations and international galleries, including Cy Twombly, Martin Creed and Lawrence Wiener.
Seventy-six-year-old Nitsch is considered a serious artist, with works in many museum collections worldwide, including the Tate Gallery, MoMA and Centre Pompidou, and who has exhibited frequently over a 50-year career. He came to prominence as part of the Viennese Actionist School that emerged in the 1960s, which is characterised by performances involving violence and humiliation. He is most notorious for his theatrical presentations which combine live action, nudity, bloodletting, blood drinking and degradation as spectacle…”
Read the full article on SPIKED, 13 February 2015 here:
“In a recent article about the controversial artist Allen Jones in the Spectator, the following disclosure was made: ‘Revealingly, a recent Jones retrospective organised by a German museum was turned down by the woman director of one of the main public galleries in London with the words “we don’t want any trouble”.’
“It seems even the prospect of criticism is enough to ward off directors of public venues from displaying politically difficult art.
“This is not the first time. In 2006, Iwona Blazwick, the director of the Whitechapel Gallery in London, was accused of pre-emptively censoring an exhibition of Hans Bellmer’s sexually explicit art. Some works ‘deemed potentially offensive’ to the local Muslim population were withdrawn before the exhibition opened. No complaint from a member of the public had been received by the venue before the decision was made…”
Read the full article on SPIKED, 11 November 2014 here:
“In 10 July, an ancient Egyptian statue was sold in London by Christie’s for £15,762,500. The Sekhemka limestone figure, dating from 2400-2300BC, was consigned by Northampton Borough Council (NBC). It had previously been stored at Northampton Museum since its donation before 1880 by the Marquess of Northampton. Unfortunately for Sekhemka, the museum is primarily a museum of local history, focusing on the shoe trade, with a subsidiary collection of fine-art paintings. There is no antiquities department, which meant the sculpture was in storage most of the time. So when NBC were in search of funds for building work at the museum, the statue looked a prime candidate for sale (called ‘deaccessioning’ in the museum world). The piece was rarely on display, lacked a specialist curator to protect it, and Northampton museum was riven by internal personnel conflict. Most important of all, Sekhemka was valuable. Despite warnings from theMuseums Association, the Egyptian government and local Northampton figures, NBC consigned and sold the figure last week.
“Bury Council sold paintings by Lowry to fund deficits in 2006 and Southampton Council wanted to do something similar to pay for a Titanic museum. The fact that the Sekhemka auction made three times its estimated price of £4-6million has serious ramifications. This will only encourage cash-strapped councils all over the UK to eye their collections with a view to disposing of ‘non-core’ items in order to pay for maintenance, restoration and expansion of buildings – or simply to reduce budget deficits…”
Read the full article on SPIKED, 15 July 2014 here:
“The publication of a photograph of a boy climbing a valuable steel sculpture, while his parents look on unconcerned, has prompted debate about children in public museums. This debate has been going on for years within the art community. On one side, there are traditionalists (conservators, artists and avid gallery-goers) who object to the noise and disruption caused by children and worry about damage to fragile objects. Opposing them are progressives: education officers, teachers and parents, who argue that art enhances the lives of children and that traditionalists should stop being restrictive and join the modern world. In a newspaper discussion, writer and broadcaster Dea Birkett calls opponents of this progressive outlook ‘slow head nodders and chin scratchers’…”
Read the full article on SPIKED, 24 February 2014 here: