A notice posted in the staff rooms of Tate Modern and Tate Britain Wednesday has caused an outcry. It asked employees which include low paid security and cleaning staff to “put money towards a sailing boat” as a “surprise gift” for Sir Nicholas Serota who departs Tate on 25th May as Director to become head of the Arts Council.
“Our intention was to ask colleagues if they wished to contribute towards the purchase of a small dinghy”
The notice states: “As you know, we are making plans to say goodbye to Nick in a way that is fitting to mark the immense achievements of his 28 years at Tate. “At the party, we would like to surprise Nick with a leaving gift from current and former members of staff. “We have thought long and hard about what to get and decided to put the money towards a sailing boat. Nick loves sailing, and this would be a lasting and very special reminder of the high regard which I know so many of us have for Nick and his contribution to Tate.”
A Tate spokesperson said in a statement: “The idea of a leaving gift was first suggested by members of staff who wanted to show their appreciation for everything Nick has achieved in his time at Tate. In 2015, Serota’s basic salary was about £165,000. The poster has now been removed.
“Our intention was to ask colleagues if they wished to contribute towards the purchase of a small dinghy on an entirely voluntary basis, in the same way, that we would hold a collection for any member of staff who was leaving Tate.”
A statement from Tate said all staff had been invited to Serota’s leaving party and that there was “no obligation for any staff to give towards a leaving gift. However, they can if they wish.” It added: “Tate has invested considerably in raising salaries over the past three years.
A staff member has taken the poster a step further by setting up a spoof GoFundMe page which reads:
Nicholas Serota is leaving the Tate galleries – us, the front of house staff, are heartbroken! His legacy of outsourcing, union-busting*, stagnating wages and corporate smooching will be dearly missed. As you can see from the picture of the poster found at the service staff room of the Tate Britain, Mr Serota is likely to get the pay for all his hard work – a yacht.
I have been inspired by this crowdsourcing technique and hoping that I can ask for something even more frivolous such as money for rent, transport and lunch (the staff canteen just put the prices up, you see). While I deeply regret that my need for 2 for the price of 1 tortellini pack and a pint of milk will mean that I may not be able to contribute to Serota’s fund, I surely welcome the spirit – ask publicly funded employees that have no social security, sick pay, holiday pay or pensions to pay for a parting gift that is worth more than 10 years of our salary.
Please donate to my fund – an aspiring artist that is being pushed out of London by ever-rising rent, transport and studio costs. While you do, pay a little prayer to Mr Serota – god forbid he gets sea-sickness thinking of us gross poverty types whilst on his 275k / year salary.