Tate Modern Director Frances Morris Labels Art World a Boys’ Club

She became the first female director of the museum in January.

Frances Morris has been appointed the new director of London's Tate Modern. Photo: Tate (@tate) via Twitter
Frances Morris has been appointed the new director of London's Tate Modern. Photo: Tate (@tate) via Twitter

Tate Modern director Frances Morris has criticized the art world’s “bias” against women, calling it “a boys’ club.”

In January, Morris became the first female director of the London-based museum when she succeeded outgoing director Chris Dercon. Morris was speaking to the Australian daily newspaper Sydney Morning Herald ahead of conference on 21st century art, and used the opportunity to air her views on sexism in the arts.

“It’s taken me a long time to work my way up the institutional hierarchy, which I suppose typifies the situation for many women,” she said. “They’re allowed to do great projects and author individual aspects of their work, but to take institutional responsibility has been much more difficult.”

According to Morris, sexism doesn’t just effect art institutions, it permeates the art market as well, where the work of male artists is valued much higher than their female counterparts.

The new Tate Modern Photo: courtesy Tate

The new Tate Modern. Photo: courtesy Tate.

Indeed, the most expensive female artist at auction, Georgia O’Keeffe, whose record stands at $44.4 million, pales in comparison to the most expensive male artist, Pablo Picasso, whose auction record stands at $179.4 million.

“There are huge numbers of vested interests in the art world and I think that is delaying social change,” she explained. “But the situation isn’t very different from other institutions if you look across the commercial sector.”

Morris added, “I think bias is a big part of it, don’t you? Institutional bias, unconscious bias. It is still a boys’ club, no question in my mind.”

The former curator has worked at the Tate for 29 years, having joined the museum as a curator in 1987. She served as head of displays at the Tate Modern between 2000 and 2006 and was subsequently promoted to director of collection, international art.

Morris built her reputation on putting together incisive exhibitions of leading women artists, including major retrospectives for Louise Bourgeois in 2007, Yayoi Kusama in 2012, and Agnes Martin in 2015.


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