TATE'S ILLEGAL PURCHASE OF TRUSTEE CHRIS OFILI'S
WORK THE UPPER ROOM
trustee' story first appeared on this site.
the Charity Commission ruled
that the Tate's 2005 purchase of its trustee Chris Ofili's work
The Upper Room for £705,000 was illegal and that the Tate
had been acting illegally for 50 years in this way. This followed
considerable press coverage of
the matter, initiated by Charles Thomson, Co-founder of the
Stuckists, who obtained
minutes and forced
the Tate to reveal the price of the work under the Freedom of
Information Act, as detailed below.
October 2004 the Tate said it had insufficient funds to maintain
contemporary acquisitions and appealed to artists to donate
work. Tate trustee Chris Ofili wrote
in the press to support the appeal. Leading artists such
as David Hockney pledged to donate. In July 2005 the Tate announced
a major purchase of Chris Ofili's work The Upper Room -
13 mixed media works on canvas with paint and elephant dung.
The secret fund-raising drive to buy the work had been running
concurrently with the Tate's appeal for other artists to donate
was no indication that Ofili was a serving trustee in the
press release (July 2005), which announced this purchase
and none press reports at the time mentioned it. It only became
public knowledge when the Stuckists informed the press and
it was then reported in the Sunday
the Freedom of Information Act the Tate the Stuckists obtained
trustee minutes about the purchase and finally the price of
it (£705,000 including VAT), which the Tate initially
refused to divulge. In
a letter to Charles Thomson on 21 October 2005, Tate Chairman
Paul Myners admitted the Tate had been wrong to keep the price
secret: "We are not perfect: your argument was persuasive."
Ben Newman, Head of Tate Legal, admitted there was "a legitimate
public interest in the sum "paid" to a trustee."
were four sources of funding needed to raise the total price:
Tate general funds £120,000; Tate Members £100,000;
National Art Collections Fund (NACF) £75,000; and five
anonymous private benefactors.
private benefactors were sourced by Victoria Miro, the gallerist
for Ofili, as part of a deal where they bought individual paintings
by Ofili from her. They also donated money to the Tate for the
Upper Room purchase, which the Tate then returned to her. The
exact details of this arrangement have not been explained.
a more detailed account, see the article linked below "Is
Serota Dead in the Water?"
close to the Tate think the 'Ofili affair' would never
have happened without the Stuckists.
(Sources close to the Stuckists think
it would never have happened without the Tate.)
TURNER PRIZE DEMO 2005 over the Ofili purchase: see here
2005 Tate trustee minutes concerning the purchase
of Tate trustee Chris Ofili's work The Upper Room for
"The Chair [Paul Myners] expressed his sympathy to
Chris over the events of the past few weeks, when this
matter had been the subject of considerable press interest,
some of which had been inaccurate or incomplete"
(And the rest bang on target presumably.) For an accurate
and complete account see:
SEROTA DEAD IN THE WATER?
on counterpunch.org - "America's
best political newsletter".
Also on www.heyokamagazine.com
article" - Edward
reading your piece someone says she is cancelling her
membership of the Art Fund"
Wittingham, Independent Turner Society
never asked the Tate why they paid so much more for Chris Ofili's
work than they did for mine"
Tracey Emin, Independent
on Sunday (12.3.06)