‘They shut up and erase’: Artists who sued Tate speak out | art

Three artists who have sued the Tate for victimization for breach of contract and racial discrimination have shared their experiences after agreeing to pay them a six-figure settlement.

The action was taken after the institution told one of the women who had been tasked with leading a large year-long program that she could not work with Jade Montserrat, an artist who has raised allegations of sexual abuse and inappropriate behavior against the art raised dealer Anthony d’Offay.

D’Offay, who denies all allegations against him, was one of the most powerful figures in contemporary British art and a major donor to Tate, which cut ties with him in 2018 following allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by three women.

A lawsuit alleging discrimination, victimization and harassment under the Equality Act was brought against Tate this year by Amy Sharrocks, who was set to be the lead artist on the famed Tate Exchange program during the 2020-21 season. She collaborated with Montserrat and Madeleine Collie, a co-curator.

While Tate has not admitted liability, it has offered a settlement after the lawsuit was filed in central London District Court in January. The institution also asked Sharrocks to withdraw a freedom of information request.

Sharrocks told the Guardian how excited she was to have been asked to do a major love-themed work across three Tate locations to mark Tate Modern’s 20th anniversary.

She brought Montserrat on board months earlier to work with her on a water-themed work called A Rumor of Waves, but was shocked when an executive contacted her in July 2020 to say the artist couldn’t be involved .

Sharrocks said that Tate director Maria Balshaw, in conversations with senior Tate figures, described Montserrat as “hostile” to the institution and cited social media posts in which the artist called for her resignation. Balshaw is said to have claimed that Montserrat’s social media posts generated so much vitriol that it would not be “safe” for her or anyone else to be involved in a Tate collaboration and that she would be fired from the Tate as a director of the Board of Trustees .

“Tate’s job is to support artists, not donors,” Sharrocks said. “Tate forgot that when they insisted on excluding Jade from a program she helped develop.

“They told me alternating stories about why Jade wasn’t allowed to take part in a live public program at the Tate – they said they were being sued, they were losing their job, it was a legal issue, a protection issue that was their hands bound.”

She added, “Publicly, Tate claims to focus on transformation and learning, risk, trust, etc., but in practice they quickly went to silence, exclude and erase.”

Tate refused a mediation request from Sharrocks and her co-curators and canceled A Rumor of Waves. The wider Tate Exchange programme, which ran for five years at Tate Modern and Tate Liverpool, was subsequently ended in acrimonious circumstances.

While Tate has cited funding cuts, others see its closure as a step backwards, depriving it of space, allowing community groups to shape Tate’s program and negating Tate’s commitment to social justice.

Montserrat accused Tate of being selfish and rejecting audiences and artists.

“My mental and physical health suffered from my experience of being close to the Tate and its mechanization,” she added.

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Collie said the closure of the Tate Exchange demonstrated the Tate’s inability to handle complex discussions while prioritizing the safety and well-being of artists and contributors.

“We sincerely hope that this agreement is a small step that paves the way for serious consideration by management and the board, and that it could lead to some meaningful changes in their processes of mentoring and supporting the artists they engage with and the broader communities.” they serve,” she said.

Georgina Calvert-Lee, a lawyer who worked for the three women, said: “If we are to live in an inclusive and diverse society, it is important that our national art galleries reflect these values ​​by being open to all artists and curators are, regardless of sex, race or any other protected characteristic.”

“The case aimed to establish the principle that galleries should not discriminate against artists and outside curators who host their exhibitions any more than members of the public who visit them,” added Calvert-Lee, a former McAllister employee Olivarius.

A Tate spokesman said: Tate invited Amy Sharrocks to be the lead artist for a public engagement project planned for 2020. She suggested the involvement of several other people and asked that they also be lead artists, which was inconsistent with the terms of their contract.

“Ms Sharrocks was made to understand that the arrangements she was proposing were not feasible and after much deliberation the project was eventually abandoned. Although this was a carefully considered decision, Tate regrets the way the relationship ended. In addition to reaching an agreement with those affected, we apologized for the hardship that had arisen.”

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