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Signage at a protest in front of Tate Modern last month. Photo: Lizzie Homersham.
Signage at a protest in front of Tate Modern last month. Photo: Lizzie Homersham.

Turner Prize Bursary Winners Turn Out to Support Striking Tate Workers

The ten artists who won this year’s Turner Prize bursaries have signed an open letter in support of the more than 313 workers slated to be laid off from Tate galleries’ commercial arm in September, according to The Art Newspaper.

Signing the letter were Arika, Liz Johnson Artur, Oreet Ashery, Shawanda Corbett, Jamie Crewe, Sean Edwards, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Ima-Abasi Okon, Imran Perretta, and Alberta Whittle, who each received one of the £10,000 ($13,000) bursaries awarded this year in lieu of the Turner Prize, which was canceled owing to Covid-19.

The artists cite their gratitude for the assistance Tate Britain provided them in awarding them their bursaries and assert that the employees of Tate Enterprises Ltd., which handles services such as catering, retail, and publishing for Tate’s four UK galleries, deserve support as well.

Noting that those scheduled to be laid off include “some of the lowest paid, most precarious and most disadvantaged members of the staff at Tate Galleries,” the artists contend that “the threat of their redundancies directly contradicts Tate’s commitment to ‘champion the richness of art for everyone’” as well as their “recent commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement in which they expressed commitment to ‘dismantle the structures within [their] own organization which perpetuate [racial] inequality.”

Echoing recent calls for museum directors to take greater reductions in salary before laying off low-wage staff, the letters signatories demand “no redundancies while anyone at Tate is paid more than £100,000.”

Tate director Maria Balshaw and chief operations officer Vicky Cheetham said last week in an email sent to staff, and first published on the Twitter account of The White Pube, that they had attempted to preserve jobs but that “[t]he long-term drop in visitor numbers we are expecting for the foreseeable future, and the consequent loss of revenue, have left us with no option but to resize our businesses in line with future demand.”