Respected Curator Mark Godfrey Will Leave Tate Modern Following His Blow-Up With the Museum Over Its Postponed Philip Guston Show

Godfrey was suspended from the museum after speaking out against its cancellation of the show, which he co-curated.

Mark Godfrey attends the Broad Museum celebration for the opening of
Mark Godfrey attends the Broad Museum celebration for the opening of "Soul Of A Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963–1983." Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for The Broad Museum.

Mark Godfrey, a widely admired curator at Tate Modern in London, has announced that he will leave his role as senior curator.

Godfrey announced on Instagram that he was entering his final weeks at the institution, and said that he was reflecting on some of the acquisitions he had worked on.

He shared an image of a 1971 painting by Joan Snyder, Dark Stroke Hope, which he worked to acquire last year. “Looking forward to seeing it on display one day,” he wrote.

A spokesperson for Tate said Godfrey was leaving as part of a voluntary layoff program that the museum introduced last December. As part of those efforts, which are related to pandemic-related revenue losses, Tate said it would downsize staff by 12 percent, cutting around 120 full-time jobs. Godfrey took up the offer, which was open to staff in all departments and at all levels.

Godfrey “will leave behind an outstanding legacy of exhibitions, displays, and acquisitions,” the spokesperson said, adding that he will continue working on Anicka Yi’s Turbine Hall commission, which opens this fall.

This month, Godfrey told the Spectator that he was leaving the job for another project. Contacted by Artnet News, Godfrey declined to elaborate, or to provide additional comment on his departure from Tate.

The news of his departure puts an end to his rocky relationship with the museum. Tate suspended the curator last October after he publicly criticized its decision, along with three other institutions, to postpone a long-awaited Philip Guston retrospective over concerns about his paintings depicting Ku Klux Klansmen.

“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,” Godfrey, a co-organizer of the exhibition, wrote on his Instagram at the time. “However, it is actually extremely patronizing to viewers, who are assumed not to be able to appreciate the nuance and politics of Guston’s works.”

Tate’s decision to suspend Godfrey was criticized by many, with one anonymous source close to the institution telling the Art Newspaper that there was “little tolerance for dissent” at Tate amid “an increasingly autocratic managerial style.”

Godfrey joined Tate Modern as curator of contemporary art in 2007. Previously, he was a lecturer at the Slade School of Fine Art. Important projects from his time at Tate include his work on the hugely significant exhibition, “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,” which he co-curated with Zoé Whitley, now director at Chisenhale Gallery. He also worked with artist Sarah Lucas on a sprawling Franz West retrospective in 2019.


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