Tate Britain rehang to focus on female artists

Tate Britain has announced that over the coming months it will be working on a complete rehang of their free displays, which is to be unveiled in May 2023. The new display will feature over 800 works by more than 350 artists, with a focus on female artists and works acquired since the millennium.

Many works by women artists from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries will be on display, some of which have never been on view before. This includes a full-length portrait by Joan Carlile (c.1600-1679), credited with being the first female professional oil painter. The Tate acquired the portrait in 2016. Another recent acquisition is a group of 29 watercolours by Emily Sargent (1857-1936), sister of the famous artist John Singer Sargent. The watercolours were made on Emily’s travels to North Africa and were uncovered in a large trunk by a family member in 1998. Just last year the Tate purchased Marianne Stokes’s A Fisher Girl’s Light (1899), which will also be on view. Stokes is considered to be one of the leading Victorian female artists.

These new acquisitions represent the Tate’s recent efforts to diversify their permanent collection. Polly Staple, Tate’s Director of Collection, British Art, said that, “Tate Britain’s new displays will embody our commitment to expanding the canon and diversifying British art history. In recent years we have brought so many incredible works into Tate’s collection and visitors will be able to see these new acquisitions hung alongside more familiar and much-loved classics.”

The Tate has also taken considerable steps to demonstrate greater gender equality in their new commissions and contemporary art displays. In their press release, they announced that “women artists will be better represented than ever before. Half the contemporary artists on display will be women, from Bridget Riley and Tracey Emin to Kudzanai-Violet Hwami and Lydia Ourahmane.” Andrea Schlieker, Director of Exhibitions and Displays, said, “this will be a wonderful moment for Tate Britain and a great chance for us to showcase British artistic talent. Working with innovative contemporary artists, we can offer a new lens through which to see the art of the past and provide inspiration to future generations.” Works by the current young generation of female artists that will be on display include a kaleidoscope canvas by Rachel Jones (b. 1991) and a series of photographs focusing on twenty-first century British life by Rene Matić (b. 1997). Contemporary artists will also be creating and installing works outside of traditional gallery spaces. There will be two climbable concreate sculptures by Sarah Lucas (b. 1962) outside and a ceiling painting by France-Lise McGurn (b. 1983) in the Djanogly Café.

But old favourites will still be on view and the Tate are making it clear that the iconic artworks well-known to the public can still be found, including John Everett Millais’s Ophelia, David Hockney’s A Bigger Splash, and Chris Ofili’s No Woman, No Cry. Over 100 works by J.M.W. Turner will be displayed, and there will still be rooms devoted to key figures such as William Blake, John Constable and Henry Moore. Alex Farquharson, director of Tate Britain, has said that the new displays “will celebrate the very best of British art and show how it speaks to us, challenges us, and inspires us.” Work is well underway for the rehang now and further details will be announced in May.

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