‘They’ve been silenced and erased’: Artists who sued Tate speak out | Art

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Three artists who sued the Tate for victimization, alleging breach of contract and racial discrimination, have told of 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 major year-long program, that she could not work with Jade Montserrat, an artist who made allegations of sexual abuse and inappropriate behavior against s. merchant Anthony d’Offay.

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

A complaint alleging discrimination, victimization and harassment under the Equality Act was filed this year against Tate by Amy Sharrocks, who was due to be the lead performer during the 2020-21 season of the famed Tate Exchange programme. She worked with Montserrat and Madeleine Collie, co-curator.

Although Tate did not admit liability, she offered a settlement after the claim was filed in London County Court in January. The institution also asked Sharrocks to withdraw an access to information request.

Sharrocks told The Guardian how delighted she was to be asked to do a major piece of work on three love-themed Tate sites for Tate Modern’s 20th anniversary.

She brought Montserrat aboard months earlier to work with her on a water-themed artwork titled A Rumor of Waves, but was shocked when a senior executive contacted her in July 2020 to say that the artist could not be involved.

Sharrocks said that in conversations with Tate figures, Tate director Maria Balshaw described Montserrat as “hostile” to the institution, citing social media posts in which the artist called for his resignation. Balshaw allegedly claimed that the vitriol generated by Montserrat’s social media posts was such that it would not be “safe” for her or others to be involved in a Tate collaboration, and that she would be sacked as director by the board of directors.

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

“They told me changing stories about why Jade couldn’t be allowed to go on a public live program at the Tate – they said they would be sued, they would lose their jobs, they would It was a legal issue, a backup issue, that their hands were tied.

She added: “Publicly, Tate claims to be focused on transformation and learning, risk, trust etc, but in practice they have moved quickly to silence, exclusion and erasure. “

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

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

Montserrat accused Tate of being selfish and relegating audiences and performers.

“From my experience of being around Tate and his mechs, my mental and physical health suffered,” she added.

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Collie said the closure of the Tate Exchange showed that the Tate was unable to nurture complex discussions while prioritizing the safety and well-being of artists and contributors.

“We sincerely hope that this settlement is a small step that paves the way for serious thought by management and the board, and that it could lead to significant changes in their care and support processes. for the artistic workers they engage and the wider communities they serve,” she said.

Georgina Calvert-Lee, a lawyer who represented the three women, said: “If we want 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 conservatives, regardless of sex, race and any other protected characteristic”.

“The case sought to establish the principle that galleries should not discriminate against the artists and outside curators who organize their exhibitions, nor the members of the public who go to see them,” added Calvert-Lee, a former member of the firm. McAllister. Olivier.

A Tate spokesperson said: Tate invited Amy Sharrocks to be the lead artist for an audience engagement project planned for 2020. She offered several other people to be involved, asking that they also be named lead artists, which was not not in accordance with the terms of his contract.

“It was made clear to Ms Sharrocks that the arrangements she proposed were not feasible and after extensive consultation the project was eventually cancelled. Although it was a well-considered decision, Tate regrets the way the relationship ended. In addition to agreeing to a settlement with those involved, we apologized for the distress caused.

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