Over the past years, Tate Modern has been uniting Russian and international art and continues to work together with artists, collectors and philanthropists to include Russian art in the Museum's global conversation. Below is a translated version of The Art Newspaper interview with the curators of Tate Modern, Matthew Gale and Natalia Sidlina in Russian.
В последние годы Тейт Модерн соединяет русское искусство с мировым и продолжает работать вместе с художниками, коллекционерами и филантропами, чтобы включить русское искусство в глобальный разговор Музея. Ниже представлена переведенная версия интервью The Art Newspaper на русском языке с кураторами Тейта Мэтью Гейл и Натальей Сидлиной.
What changes have been made at the Tate with the arrival of the new director, Maria Belshaw?
Matthew Gale: It seems to me that in such a large institution as Tate, succession is inevitable, but Maria has introduced her own style: she is more focused on inclusion, finding new audiences, attracting a variety of communities. We are trying to look at international art more broadly and at the same time we are looking for new connections within the UK.
Has anything changed, such as the acquisition policy?
MG: We have a long-term strategy as to which works are needed in the collection, so I would say that we are currently continuing to move in a pre-established direction.
What are the sources of the purchasing budget?
MG: We are a state museum, but a large portion of our funding comes from sources which we attract independently, non-state sources make up more than 60% of the budget. This means that we are constantly engaged in the search for funding, like any other major institution, but at the same time we cooperate with people who are ready to support us, people who help us find and acquire works for the collection.
Do you cooperate with Russian collectors and patrons of the arts?
MG: Yes, we have a large network of patrons around the world, among them are philanthropists who help us with acquisitions in Russia.
Natalia Sidlina: One of the ways in which we go about working with different countries is the creation of regional committees, which include philanthropists, collectors, directors of art funds and so on. These are the people who are interested in promoting the art of their region and understand that one of the ways to popularize it is to include works in the collections of the world's largest museums.
As for Russia and Eastern Europe, we have the REEAC - Russia & Eastern Europe Acquisitions Committee. Its members are not just residents of Russia and Eastern Europe, among them are participants from the United States, Western and Central Europe and even Asia. This is a whole network of patrons who support us financially and act as advisers, they help us get acquainted with artists, other collectors and establish relationships with museums and private foundations. REEAC has existed for five years, its influence is already noticeable: we have added new works by Russian artists to the collection, organized several exhibitions dedicated to Russian art, and are working on new projects. Regional committees help to broaden the horizons of the collection and make it more international, as Tate does not speak of individual countries, but rather of a global picture.
Which works of Russian artists have been purchased during these five years?
NS: Works purchased in recent years are already included in the exposition. Among them is the video documentation of the performance "Russian World" by the group "Collective Actions", which is currently exhibited in our new Blavatnik Building. Another example is Victor Pivovarov, whose paintings are presented side by side with other artists who worked in the post-war Europe, North and South America. In the same hall where Viktor Pivovarov's works are hung, Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana are also on show. We do not just dedicate a hall to one artist or to the art of a particular country - we are demonstrating a global picture. Another Russian artist, who will soon appear in the exhibition, is Irina Nakhova. About 75% of the works exhibited at Blavatnik-Building are recent acquisitions. This is what has been added to the museum's collection in the 17 years of the Tate Modern’s existence - a relatively short period of time. We have acquired so much work that we were able to fill the halls of a completely new building, built specifically to accommodate and showcase the expanded collection. We regularly consult with colleagues who are working on the permanent exhibition, we always have an idea of its development, and we acquire work to exhibit it.
Installation view at Tate Modern, 2004 © Olivia Hemingway, Tate Photography
Installation view, 'Red Star Over Russia: A Revolution in Visual Culture 1905-55', 2017 Photography: Tate Photography
What is more important when work is purchased: the name of the artist or the significance of the work itself?
MG: The significance of the work, of course. We do not do business and don’t sell art, so we can’t just buy work of the artist which we find interesting, hoping that we will be able to exchange it later. The work itself should be of value.
But what about young artists who can quickly rise to fame, but are often just as quickly forgotten? When does Tate decide that the work is worthy to be bought?
MG: In a sense, the answer lies in your question. If the institution doesn’t react quickly enough, we spend the next dozens of years regretting the missed opportunity. However, we can make predictions. For example, this person is creating something which seems interesting now, perhaps he will continue in the same spirit.
NS: We are working with promising young artists at various levels, this is not necessarily an acquisition. We invite them to participate in our events, to speak at round tables, to present performances. For example, last fall, we were visited by some young artists from Russia: Arseniy Zhilyaev, Sasha Pirogova, Mikhail Tolmachev. They participated in a public program, talked about their work, conducted master classes. Our visitors, who took part in Sasha’s master class, even arranged a spontaneous performance in the interactive space "The Tanks". We invite young artists to collaborate, and sometimes it ends with the purchase of their work. This is a time-consuming process. We don’t just come into the studio, buy work and leave, but, rather, we maintain a constant dialogue. This is carried out by curators who work with purchasing committees, they establish contacts and introduce Tate to artists as well as artists to Tate. Far from all artists have the opportunity to travel and visit London - we help to establish contact. So this is not a one-way street, but rather a dialogue.
Last year Tate Modern was visited by five times more visitors than Tate Britain. Is there any competition over the viewers between the galleries?
MG: Tate is a single organization and a single collection, so the success of one of its parts is shared between all of its galleries. Tate Britain had a fantastic exhibition of David Hockney, which was hugely popular and benefited the entire Tate. This is a common cause rather than a rivalry between siblings.
Tate Britain is planning a big change in the permanent exposition. How often does the exposition change at the Tate Modern and do you coordinate it with other divisions?
MG: We have to coordinate it with other parts of Tate, because, as I said, we have one organization and one collection. The last change of the permanent exposition of the entire Tate Modern was carried out for the opening of the new building in 2016, it was a big project. The exposition in the "Boiler House", the main wing of the Tate Modern, is changing gradually. This is a lot of hard work. Every year, we change the exposition in about 30 rooms, which is equivalent to three or four exhibitions, and this is just our usual turnover of things. The changing of works and updating of the exposition are aimed at showing our entire collection to the wide audience. Of course, in the future a big update is planned, but we are talking about a five-six-year cycle.