Burlington's editorial ripples outwards

May 1 2012

The Burlington Magazine's stinging critique of Tate Britain, which I mentioned yesterday, has been picked up by the wider press. Here is The TelegraphThe Times (paywall), and Jonathan Jones in The Guardian agrees with it wholeheartedly: 

Tate is the custodian of a national collection of British art since 1500, whether it wants to be or not. The unique breadth of the Tate collection of British art makes it a fundamental historical resource. History is popular: the Tate has tons of art illuminating themes such as the English Civil War and those gorgeous Georgians, which are constantly being explored in TV dramas and documentaries. Why does it assume no one is interested when there is so much evidence to the contrary?

Even if no one cared about the world of Joseph Wright of Derby, the Tate would still have a duty to show his art properly. A museum cannot just shrug off its responsibility to the public collection it holds. Or can it? Tate has apparently established the right to treat its collection not as our national property, to be on view for us to see and draw conclusions about, so much as the plaything of curators who can trawl it to create mediocre exhibitions such as the recent Migrations.

Update - a Tate spokesman states in the gallery's defence that:

"At the moment, just over fifty percent of the works on display from the Collection at Tate Britain are pre-1900".

But as a reader writes:

'Interesting that they apparently think that the fact that only almost half of what's up is 20thC gets them off the hook. When you've got a mandate to cover five centuries of art, it's a slightly odd defence.'

Notice to "Internet Explorer" Users

You are seeing this notice because you are using Internet Explorer 6.0 (or older version). IE6 is now a deprecated browser which this website no longer supports. To view the Art History News website, you can easily do so by downloading one of the following, freely available browsers:

Once you have upgraded your browser, you can return to this page using the new application, whereupon this notice will have been replaced by the full website and its content.