With a new building in place designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the Tate Modern extension is opening this weekend in London. Many are discussing the iconic architecture of the building with its original angle work, the 360-degree outdoor viewing gallery at the building’s apex, and the interior that is filled with long broad staircases. With the building itself of interest, one also wonders if there are improvements made to the diversity of artwork presented, particularly by women artists.
Indeed, in the new Tate Modern extension, there are more works on display by women and artists not from Western Europe or Northern America. There are 300 artists displayed from more than 50 countries. The Tate’s director, Sir Nicholas Serota, has expressed how the extension means a “genuinely new Tate Modern” with a more “international, diverse and engaging” collection with more women being presented. Not only are more women artists represented but also there are more works from across the world, including Africa, the Middle East, Asia, South America, and Eastern Europe.
Despite the positive improvements for women artists at the new Tate Modern, it is undeniable that there has been a lack of representation of them in the galleries past. The Tate Modern’s director, Frances Morris, has acknowledged herself that “we are highlighting the great contributions of women but there is an imbalance in the history.” When the Tate Modern first opened in 2000 female artists only represented 17% of the total. Perhaps the lack of female artist representation is due to the historical conditioning of male artists who have just been more famous in the past. However, considering there is a lot of contemporary art at the Tate Modern, the percentage of 17% at its opening in 2000 does seem rather low.
Looking forward, it is important to continue to present women artists at the Tate Modern. First and foremost, as it is such a worldwide famous gallery it can offer hope and inspiration for aspiring female artists who believe they too can ‘make it big’ and have their work displayed at a gallery as large as the Tate Modern. Secondly, having women artists presented offers a woman’s perspective of the world, which makes the gallery more diverse, and in turn more interesting. This, coupled with increasing works from around the world, provides the new Tate Modern with a more eclectic and varied display of artwork, providing art viewers with more perspectives from around the world. The fact London is such a multicultural city, and the world has become more globalised, it seems fitting that the Tate Modern should mirror that and be as diverse as the city it is situated in.
Brown, M. ‘More diversity, new approaches… and two macaws’, The Guardian [London] 15 June 2016: 1-45