Matisse Show Attracts 562,622 Visitors to Tate Modern

It is the London museum's most successful exhibition.

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Henri Matisse, La Gerbe (1953). Photo: courtesy Stedelijk Museum.
Henri Matisse, The Sheaf (1953)
Collection University of California, Los Angeles. Hammer Museum © Succession Henri Matisse / DACS 2013
Henri Matisse, Blue Nude (II) (1952)
Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Droits réservés © Succession Henri Matisse / DACS 2013
Henri Matisse, Icarus 1946 Maquette for plate VIII of the illustrated book Jazz 1947 Digital image: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jean-Claude Planchet Artwork: © Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2014
Henri Matisse, Icarus 1946 Maquette for plate VIII of the illustrated book Jazz 1947 Digital image: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jean-Claude PlanchetArtwork
Photo: Courtesy© Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2014.
New York, New York.
Henri Matisse, The Snail (1953)
© Succession H. Matisse / DACS 2014
Photo: @daney via Instagram
Henri Matisse: The Cut Outs, Installation View
Henri Matisse: The Cut Outs, Installation View
Henri Matisse, Nuit de Noel (1952)
Henri Matisse: The Cut Outs, Installation View
Photo: @rahoul_masrani_yoga via Instagram
Photo: @dear_april via Instagram
Photo: @olia_manizer via Instagram

Henri Matisse’s cut-outs exhibition (“Matisse Cut-Outs at Tate Modern Rewrite Art History) attracted a staggering 562,622 visitors to Tate Modern, making it the institution’s most successful exhibition ever.

Talking at Tate’s Annual Press Conference on September 15, director Sir Nicholas Serota said that the show’s popularity was owed to the “joyful qualities of the works themselves,” as well as the exceptional rarity of their group presentation. “People were aware that this would be the one opportunity that they might have in their lifetime to see all these works together,” he said.

The announcement crowns a vintage season for Tate, which has just released its 2013/14 annual report. Tate Modern remains the most visited modern and contemporary art museum worldwide—and its audience extends far beyond those who can make the trip to one of the institution’s four venues (Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate St Ives, and Tate Liverpool).

“We have always been committed to sharing the collection outside London,” Serota told the press. Last year, 1,476 pieces were lent to organizations in the UK and internationally, and these numbers are likely to grow. Tate is now inviting art institutions across the UK to apply to its Plus Tate program—an eighteen-strong, countrywide network designed to foster collaboration between museums—and it expects to add ten new members shortly.

A new batch of key pieces from the collection is about to hit the road, including Tracey Emin’s infamous Bed (“Tracey Emin’s Bed Heads to Tate), which will start its tour of the country at Turner Contemporary in the artist’s hometown of Margate, before being shown in London and Liverpool.

Serota appeared confident that the Scottish Referendum will have little impact on the running of Tate and its partnerships with museums in Scotland—even if the Yes side eventually wins. “[Tate’s Collection] remains a collection of art from the British Isles,” he said. “We are not about to cut off a section of the collection and return it to Scotland.” Whatever the results on Friday, Tate Britain will also keep its name.

Funding Cuts

As the funding cuts continue to bite, Tate has relied more and more extensively on private donations, both for its capital work—Tate Britain’s £45 million refurbishment was almost entirely privately funded—and for acquisitions.

Patrons’ committees have driven acquisitions in key geographical areas including Latin America and the Middle East and North Africa. But Serota denies that these are in any way influencing the making of the Tate collection as a whole, pointing out that all the acquisition proposals come from the curatorial team.

“I don’t think the committees are shaping the curatorial vision for Tate,” he insisted, while admitting that works were regularly offered and accepted by the museum. “But it’s a learning process for the members of the committee. They come to realize that collecting for a national institution is a very different process from collecting for a private collection.”

Yet fundraising isn’t the answer for all of Tate’s needs. Lamenting the collection’s gaps, particularly in early 20th century work, Serota admitted: “We probably now won’t be able to afford a Mondrian in the way that we were ten years ago. That’s partly the result of increase in value, but it’s also partly a consequence of the reduction of Grant in Aid.”

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