FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

It’s Still Not Too Late to Deserve Your CBE, Chris Ofili

by

This year the artist and former Tate trustee, Chris Ofili, was awarded the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) by the Queen for “services to art”. The following letter was sent to him on 19 October 2005. There has been no reply. This is the first time it has appeared online.

MarkD

The Hypocrisy of Tate Chairman Paul Myners by Mark D

Dear Chris Ofili,

I have been informed by Mr Newman, Head of Legal, Tate, that a total price of £600,000 has been paid by Tate for your installation The Upper Room. The issue of a serving Trustee’s work being bought for such a large sum has been the subject of some controversy with page leads in The Sunday Telegraph and The Times, as well as other coverage in several issues of the Evening Standard, Independent on Sunday and today’s Telegraph. This coverage has not reflected favourably on you, Tate, or others involved, including Sir Nicholas Serota and Tate Chairman Paul Myners.

Attention has been drawn not only to the appearance of favouritism and conflict of interest, but also to the Tate’s claim of lack of funds for maintaining contemporary acquisitions and its drive “Building the Tate Collection”, when leading artists were asked to donate work. Last year you wrote in The Guardian to support this appeal, saying, “As soon as I heard about this request from the Tate, I felt as a trustee and an artist it would be an altogether positive thing to do.” It was not publicly known at the time, but it is now apparent, that when you endorsed this appeal for other artists to give their work, you knew that a major fund-raising effort was in place to buy your own work. In fact, one of the factors contributing to the shortage of funds is the allocation of a significant amount of them to you. This does not reflect well on you or Tate.

When you accepted the Trusteeship, you were bound by the Nolan Committee Seven Principles of Public Life. The first of these is “Selflessness: holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.” I suggest that you cannot be seen to have acted in accord with this. This purchase of your work has been damaging not only to your reputation, but that of Tate. It has undermined Tate’s appeal for other artists to donate work, and your own endorsement of this appeal in the circumstances leaves a very bad impression of hypocrisy and opportunism.

I therefore urge you to redeem the bad situation that has been created by refunding the money for The Upper Room to Tate, and asking your gallerist Victoria Miro to do the same. Errors of judgement can be forgiven if they are corrected. They cannot be forgiven, however, if they are perpetuated. The current unsavoury associations with this purchase show no signs of abating. In fact they show every sign of being inextricably linked with future perception of your work and career. I cannot see that this will be at all in your real interests.

By demonstrating magnanimity, you will set a significant example to other artists as regards the Tate donation appeal. By donating your “most important work to date”, you will set a benchmark for other artists to follow. Tate cannot create the first class collection it aspires to and fill the gaps it wishes to, unless a culture is created where it is seen as fitting for artists to donate their best work to Tate. Donating the best work is generous; donating the second-best is tokenism, and will lead to a second-rate collection instead of a first-rate one. If a Trustee is not prepared to show the way, then there is no incentive for other artists to do likewise.

In this respect, I would draw your attention to the offer of a donation of Stuckist works to Tate. I was insistent that I would only accept the best works from the artists for this donation. Some were very resistant to this idea, as they felt certain pieces were highlights of many years’ work, and would impair their ability to mount their own future private shows. Nevertheless, they did all agree to meet my stipulation. Some of the artists have to fit their art around full-time job; some are dependent on sales of their art for an income; some work very slowly. Their offer was a genuine potential sacrifice, and a greater one than you will make, as the Trustee minutes record that five of your paintings have already been sold to collectors as an integral part of raising donations for Tate to buy The Upper Room.

As you have said, “The Tate isn’t a private institution, it belongs to the nation. So if artists give work to the Tate, they are giving work to the nation. There is a very long tradition of such artistic philanthropy in this country.” It is between you and your conscience as to how you are judged in regard to this tradition.

Yours sincerely
Charles Thomson
Co-founder, The Stuckists

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 24, 2017
Paul Street
Beyond Neoliberal Identity Politics
Daniel Read
Powder Keg: Manchester Terror Attack Could Lead to Yet Another Resurgence in Nationalist Hate
Robert Fisk
When Peace is a Commodity: Trump in the Middle East
Kenneth Surin
The UK’s Epochal Election
Jeff Berg
Lessons From a Modern Greek Tragedy
Steve Cooper
A Concrete Agenda for Progressives
Michael McKinley
Australia-as-Concierge: the Need for a Change of Occupation
William Hawes
Where Are Your Minds? An Open Letter to Thomas de Maiziere and the CDU
Steve Early
“Corporate Free” Candidates Move Up
Fariborz Saremi
Presidential Elections in Iran and the Outcomes
Dan Bacher
The Dark Heart of California’s Water Politics
Alessandra Bajec
Never Ending Injustice for Pinar Selek
Rob Seimetz
Death By Demigod
Jesse Jackson
Venezuela Needs Helping Hand, Not a Hammer Blow 
Binoy Kampmark
Return to Realpolitik: Trump in Saudi Arabia
Vern Loomis
The NRA: the Dragon in Our Midst
May 23, 2017
John Wight
Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?
Patrick Cockburn
A Gathering of Autocrats: Trump Puts US on Sunni Muslim Side of Bitter Sectarian War with Shias
Shamus Cooke
Can Trump Salvage His Presidency in Syria’s War?
Thomas S. Harrington
“Risk”: a Sad Comedown for Laura Poitras
Josh White
Towards the Corbyn Doctrine
Mike Whitney
Rosenstein and Mueller: the Regime Change Tag-Team
Jan Oberg
Trump in Riyadh: an Arab NATO Against Syria and Iran
Susan Babbitt
The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes
Rannie Amiri
Al-Awamiya: City of Resistance
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
The European Left and the Greek Tragedy
Laura Leigh
This Land is Your Land, Except If You’re a Wild Horse Advocate
Hervé Kempf
Macron, Old World President
Michael J. Sainato
Devos Takes Out Her Hatchet
L. Ali Khan
I’m a Human and I’m a Cartoon
May 22, 2017
Diana Johnstone
All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron
Robert Fisk
Hypocrisy and Condescension: Trump’s Speech to the Middle East
John Grant
Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and the Return of Reefer Madness
Nozomi Hayase
Trump and the Resurgence of Colonial Racism
Rev. William Alberts
The Normalizing of Authoritarianism in America
Frank Stricker
Getting Full Employment: the Fake Way and the Right Way 
Jamie Davidson
Red Terror: Anti-Corbynism and Double Standards
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, Sweden, and Continuing Battles
Robert Jensen
Beyond Liberal Pieties: the Radical Challenge for Journalism
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Extravagant Saudi Trip Distracts from His Crisis at Home
Angie Beeman
Gig Economy or Odd Jobs: What May Seem Trendy to Privileged City Dwellers and Suburbanites is as Old as Poverty
Colin Todhunter
The Public Or The Agrochemical Industry: Who Does The European Chemicals Agency Serve?
Jerrod A. Laber
Somalia’s Worsening Drought: Blowback From US Policy
Michael J. Sainato
Police Claimed Black Man Who Died in Custody Was Faking It
Clancy Sigal
I’m a Trump Guy, So What?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail