Change is happening at London’s prestigious gallery; The Tate Modern. On the 15th January, The Tate Modern announced via their website that Francis Morris, Director of Collection, International Art, and the Tate, has been appointed the new Director of Tate Modern, and will take up her post later this year.

Frances Morris | Photography by Sarah Lee

A Tate curator since 1988 and a key member of the Tate Modern since it’s inception, Morris was the Head of Displays from 2000-2006, and then became Director of Collection. Morris “has continually worked to re-imagine Tate’s collection and has been instrumental in developing its international reach and its representation of women artists” (Tate Modern, 2016). Curating the works of “major retrospectives of women artists” (Tate Modern, 2016), such as Louise Bourgeois in 2007, Yayoi Kusama in 2012 and Agnes Martin in 2015: Morris has always championed the voices of women in the art world.

Yayoi Kusama Infinity Room | Yayoi Kusama Studio, Inc

Morris said her feminist drive grew significantly when she began working as Director of Collections – “ I realised what a deficit [of work by women] there was. And then I was in a position to do something about it.” (Morris, 2016). An example of this was the 2015 EY Exhibition: Sonia Delaunay Show. Morris explains the idea of showcasing Delaunay was mentioned for years within the Tate Modern but never followed through. Taking initiative, Morris propelled the exhibit that became highly successful (The Guardian, 2016).

Sonia Delaunay, Prismes electriques 1914| © Pracusa

Frances Morris played an integral role in spearheading Louise Bourgeois’ late career when she commissioned the artist to create a piece for the opening of The Tate Modern in 2000. Five years prior, Morris championed Bourgeois in a contemporary art show curated in collaboration with the late critic Stuart Morgan. Many critics of the time commented on how they fully comprehended Bourgeois’ work in a new light then. The very same centre piece from 2000, “Maman” will solidify Bourgeois into the fabric of The Tate’s history once more, as it will be centre piece of the opening display in the newly enlarged Tate space, fondly titled, The Switch Room (opened in the 17th June 2016).

Maman | Photography by Marcus Leith and Andrew Dunkley, Tate Photography

Despite Morris’ efforts, it is fact that female artists are often ignored or forgotten within art galleries. One would be inclined to believe the situation has improved compared to the mid-80s, when Guerrilla Girls were formed and picketed the Museum of Modern Art, for featuring only 13 women in a show of 169 artists. However, the outlook remains bleak. Numbers show that within the states, only 30 percent of artists represented in galleries are female. In 2013, Gemma Rolls-Bentley, an independent curator, trove through the “Top 100 Auction Sales” list of the year and found no women. Bentley did a further study and found in amongst the 386 public works of art in London,only  8 percent was created by women.

Guerilla Girls Boston Mobile Billboard Project | Guerilla Girls

The appointment of Frances Morris is apt and almost ironic in light of the protest that happened on the same day of the announcement. The opening and VIP guest preview of works by minimalist sculptor Carl Andre ignited the rage within activists from the WHEREISANAMENDIETA movement and Sisters Uncut. 31 years ago, Carl Andre was charged of murdering his wife and “prolific feminist sculptor and WoC performance artist” (Dazed, 2016).  The Tate Modern currently owns works by Ana Mendieta, however, has chosen to display the work of her murderer. To the activists, this choice “shows how little the elitist art industry cares about women of colour and survivors of abuse” (Laura, WHEREISANAMENDIETA, 2016).

WHEREISANAMENDIETA Protest | Photography by Taylor McGraa

Morris has said she will not only bring in more female artists to the Tate Modern, but also works by women of colour, non-European artists, and non-gender-binary artists. By “re-looking” at art history, Morris is sourcing from all over the world to find many “over-looked” artists, to represent the truly diverse world and audience of London (Dazed Digital, 2016).

“We feel very committed to recognising women’s achievements and it’s true to say that women’s achievements in the arts for many years have not been recognised … We’ve tried to bring out of the shadows people who have been overlooked.”

Frances Morris, The Guardian, 2016.

Written by Sonia Wan

Edited by Christina Wright

References

Tate (2016) New Director Press Release [Online] Available at http://www.tate.org.uk/about/press-office/press-releases/new-director-tate-modern-appointed [Accessed 20/06/16]

Tate (2016) New Tate Modern Building [Online] Available at http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern/new-tate-modern/building [Accessed 20/06/16]

Tate (2016) EY Exhibition: Sonia Delauney [Online] Available at http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/ey-exhibition-sonia-delaunay [Accessed 20/06/16]

Dazed Digital (2016) Tate Modern’s New Director [Online] Available at http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/31601/1/tate-modern-s-new-director-on-celebrating-women-artists  [Accessed 20/06/16]

Dazed Digital (2016) Protests Hits Tate [Online] Available at http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/31568/1/protest-hits-tate-over-exhibition-of-alleged-killer[Accessed 20/06/16]

Guerrilla Girls (2016) Home [Online] Available at http://www.guerrillagirls.com/#open [Accessed 20/06/16]

The Guardian (2016) Women in Art [Online] Available at http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/the-womens-blog-with-jane-martinson/2013/may/24/women-art-great-artists-men [Accessed 20/06/16]

The Guardian (2016) Frances Morris to become Tate Modern Chief [Online] Available at https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/jan/15/frances-morris-to-become-new-tate-modern-chief [Accessed 20/06/16]

The Guardian (2016) Tate Modern Director Interview [Online] Available at https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/apr/16/tate-modern-director-frances-morris-interview [Accessed 20/06/16]