Tate has suspended Mark Godfrey, their Senior Curator of International Art and the curator of the highly anticipated ‘Philip Guston: Now’ exhibition, for speaking out on his Instagram account about the gallery’s decision to postpone the show until 2024.
The Art Newspaper has backed up their disclosure of the suspention with three sources close to the museum. Managers at Tate decided to discipline Mr Godfrey, a senior curator of international art after he raised objections on social media to the deferral of Philip Guston: Now, a major show which was set to include around 125 paintings and 70 drawings from 40 public and private collections.’ – TAN.
TAN added, “If you work at Tate, you are expected to toe the party line,” one source says. “There is very little tolerance for dissent and an increasingly autocratic managerial style,” says the source who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals. Godfrey said that Tate did not include him in discussions about the show’s postponement. “The decision was not with the curators,” Godfrey said. (A Tate spokesperson denied this, saying that all four museums consulted with the curators in advance of the announcement of the delay.) The Tate exhibition was to start at Tate Modern and move to the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC and the Museums of Fine Arts in Houston and Boston.
Museum’s Joint Statement Issued By The National Gallery Washington In September
After a great deal of reflection and extensive consultation, our four institutions have jointly made the decision to delay our successive presentations of Philip Guston Now. We are postponing the exhibition until a time at which we think that the powerful message of social and racial justice that is at the center of Philip Guston’s work can be more clearly interpreted.
We recognise that the world we live in is very different from the one in which we first began to collaborate on this project five years ago. The racial justice movement that started in the U.S. and radiated to countries around the world, in addition to challenges of a global health crisis, have led us to pause.
As museum directors, we have a responsibility to meet the very real urgencies of the moment. We feel it is necessary to reframe our programming and, in this case, step back, and bring in additional perspectives and voices to shape how we present Guston’s work to our public. That process will take time.
Collectively and individually, we remain committed to Philip Guston and his work. We plan to rebuild the retrospective with time to reconsider the many important issues the work raises.
This show has been years in the planning, the result of a true collaborative spirit among us. We plan to present a reconsidered Guston exhibition in 2024 and will work together to do so.
Mark Godfrey, Senior Curator of International Art Instagram
“Cancelling or delaying the exhibition is probably motivated by the wish to be sensitive to the imagined reactions of particular viewers, and the fear of protest, However, it is actually extremely patronising to viewers, who are assumed not to be able to appreciate the nuance and politics of Guston’s works.”
Statement From Statement from Musa Mayer Guston’s Daughter September 23, 2020
I am deeply saddened by the decision of the museum directors not to exhibit the Philip Guston Now retrospective. Half a century ago, my father made a body of work that shocked the art world. Not only had he violated the canon of what a noted abstract artist should be painting at a time of particularly doctrinaire art criticism, but he dared to hold up a mirror to white America, exposing the banality of evil and the systemic racism we are still struggling to confront today.
In these paintings, cartoonish hooded figures evoke the Ku Klux Klan. They plan, they plot, they ride around in cars smoking cigars. We never see their acts of hatred. We never know what is in their minds. But it is clear that they are us. Our denial, our concealment. They are even the artist, as the most well-known work of this series makes clear. My father dared to unveil white culpability, our shared role in allowing the racist terror that he had witnessed since boyhood when the Klan marched openly by the thousands in the streets of Los Angeles. As poor Jewish immigrants, his family fled extermination in the Ukraine. He understood what hatred was. It was the subject of his earliest works.
This should be a time of reckoning, of dialogue. These paintings meet the moment we are in today. The danger is not in looking at Philip Guston’s work, but in looking away.
The superb retrospective catalogue, with its essays by the four curators, will remain as the only evidence of their years of insightful work to allow the entire scope of my father’s career to be seen by a new generation of art lovers. The Guston Foundation’s newly launched website, PhilipGuston.org, and the just-released major monograph “Philip Guston: A Life Spent Painting” by Robert Storr make major contributions to the artist’s legacy. But nothing can fully substitute for seeing the works themselves.
Read Philip Guston Postponed: Curator David Anfam Speaks Out – Paul Carter Robinson