Tate reveals what it spent in response to Ofili controversy

In an unprecedented move, the gallery has published the cost of all its purchases for the last two years


Following the Charity Commission’s investigation of Tate over the purchase of Chris Ofili’s The Upper Room, while he was serving as a trustee, the gallery has decided to be much more open about its acquisitions. Although the Commission’s investigation called for the full publication of purchases of trustees’ work, Tate made its own decision to go further and record the value of all purchases. Until now, most of this information has been a closely guarded secret.

The first set of figures are included in the latest Tate biennial accounts, covering the financial years 2004-05 and 2005-06. The Art Newspaper is publishing a full list of works (below) acquired at a cost of over £50,000 ($94,000). This represents 40 of the roughly 130 purchases. The most expensive was Reynolds’ The Archers (£3.2m/$6m) and the cheapest was an archival letter from artist Sir Gerald Kelly (£41/$77).

The total value of purchases in the two year period was £12.2m ($23m), a higher sum than might have been expected, considering the perceived crisis over acquisitions (the figure excludes donations of works). Of the £12.2m, £2.9m ($5.5m) came from external public funds (primarily the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund), £4.4m ($8.3m) from charitable funds connected to the Tate and £4m ($7.5m) from Tate’s own income.

The Tate list gives the source of the works, which are mainly from dealers (mostly in London, with a few in the US and Europe). It is noticeable that none of the £50,000+ works were bought at auction. Although the two most expensive works were oil paintings, only ten works on the list of 40 were made with this traditional medium.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Tate reveals what it spent'