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Tate Modern in London.
Tate Modern in London.

Hundreds of Artists Sign Letter Supporting Striking Tate Workers

An open letter in support of striking Tate employees has garnered over 300 signatures from artists and art workers, including Turner Prize–winners and artists who have exhibited at Tate’s four galleries across the United Kingdom. The letter demands that the organization divert 10 percent of its $9 million in government bailout money to prevent 313 job cuts from Tate’s commercial arm, Tate Enterprises—a major downsize that the strikers, who voted to strike through the PCS union last month, say will disproportionately impact the organization’s lowest-paid staff, many of whom are Black, minority ethnic, and immigrant workers.

“We urge Tate to stop the TEL redundancies process immediately and to start exploring new imaginative ways to save jobs and avoid outsourcing staffing while there are 313 Tate workers threatened with job losses,” reads the letter, whose 316 signatories include Sophia Al-Maria, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Hannah Black, Zach Blas, Forensic Architecture, Jesse Darling, Paul Maheke, Mark Leckey, and Anicka Yi, all of whom have recently exhibited at Tate, participated in Tate events, or have had work acquired or commissioned by the museum. Another letter, released last month, carried signatures from all ten 2020 awardees of the Tate-administered Turner Prize.

A spokesperson for Tate, which reopened in July, told The Guardian that the cuts—which will nearly halve the company’s entire workforce—were a “last resort,” adding that “Tate is facing a £50m shortfall in self-generated income this year. We are doing all we can to mitigate the impact of this, including on jobs. We are halving all budgets, freezing all but essential recruitment, a voluntary 10% pay cut has been taken by the executive group, and we continue to argue for more government support.” 

But Tate’s strikers insist that the institution—which severed ties earlier this month with Anthony D’Offay two years after multiple sexual-harassment allegations against the towering benefactor were first reported—could do more. “We demand that there are no redundancies while senior staff earn more than £100K; just 10 % of the Tate’s £7 mil government bailout would be enough to save many of TEL jobs. If the money isn’t enough, then Tate must demand more funding,” the letter enjoins. “The British Art and Culture sector as we know it could disappear.”