Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Art world as boys’ club

Tate Modern director Frances Morris will deliver the keynote speech at The Forever Now: Contemporary Art Collections in the 21st Century conference at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: James Alcock.

Andrew Taylor, Tate Modern director Frances Morris on why the art world is still a boys’ club, The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 August 2016

The appointment of Frances Morris as the head of Britain’s Tate Modern was widely applauded when it was announced in January.

A Tate curator since 1988, Morris has staged major shows of Yayoi Kusama, Agnes Martin and Louise Bourgeois, whose giant Maman metal spider greeted visitors at the opening of Tate Modern in a former power station in 2000. She was also deeply involved in the museum’s innovative displays based on genre rather than chronology.

“But 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 says. “They’re allowed to do great projects and author individual aspects of their work, but to take institutional responsibility has been much more difficult.”

Morris regards her accession as Tate Modern’s first female director, taking over from Chris Dercon, with some bemusement.

“Isn’t it ironic?” she asks. “The art world is there to support and celebrate risk-taking and innovation in the intellectual field.

“So you have this kind of radicalism combined with a deep conservatism institutionally.”

Morris is in Sydney to speak at The Forever Now: Contemporary Art Collections in the 21st Century conference at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The event coincides with the opening of the Today Tomorrow Yesterday exhibition of artworks acquired by the museum since 1989.

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