Nicholas Serota has set the ambitious goal of creating an acquisitions fund of up to £100 million, over the next decade. Sir Nicholas Serota also wants to secure at least 100 gifts of major works from artists and collectors. “We have to take this initiative to sustain our public collections in the face of declining public resources”, he explained.
Government grant in aid no longer provides significant money for acquisitions. Two decades ago, the Tatereceived £2 million a year towards adding to its collection, but this sum has declined to only £750,000. During the same period, art market prices have leaped upwards. This means that the purchasing power of grant in aid for Tate acquisitions has decreased to a 20th of its earlier value.
The answer, according to Sir Nicholas Serota, is to appeal for private donations. He kick-started the campaign by announcing gifts by 23 leading contemporary artists (Auerbach, Blake, Bourgeois, Caro, Caulfield, Cragg, Craig-Martin, Deacon, Freud, Gilbert and George, Gordon, Gormley, Hamilton, Hirst, Hockney, Hodgkin, Horn, Kapoor, Kossoff, Long, Ofili, Rego and Whiteread). Important bequests have also been promised by several collectors—Sickert’s “Dame Peggy Ashcroft” (from Lord Attenborough), Michael Andrews’ “Self-portrait”, John Wootton’s “Life-size horse” and Freud’s “Boy smoking”.
What is going to be much more of a challenge will be to build up a fund of up to £100 million ($185 million) for acquisitions, including research and conservation. The income, which would probably amount to several million pounds a year (depending on the stock market and interest rates), would be spent, with the capital kept intact. Mr Serota announced a commitment of £1 million by Tate Members towards the fund, but this is a modest start. The National Gallery already has an endowment for acquisitions, thanks to the £50 million donation from Sir Paul Getty in 1985-87.
In terms of works, Sir Nicholas points to four areas where the Tate must acquire. With classic British art, occasional major acquisitions will be needed. When it comes to modern art, the gallery intends to build on its strengths. Contemporary art is badly needed. The Tatealso wants to expand its boundaries—geographically, to Latin America, Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe, and into new media, notably photography, film and video.
Originally appeared in the Art Newspaper as 'Contemporary art badly needed'