Tate cuts all ties with controversial patron Anthony d’Offay

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Move comes after criticism over racist imagery and allegations of sexual harassment

The Tate has cut all ties with its controversial benefactor and patron Anthony d’Offay after criticism over racist imagery and allegations of sexual harassment.

The Tate, which runs four internationally renowned art museums in London, Liverpool and St Ives, has also agreed to remove all public signage citing the 80-year-old collector’s name.

It first suspended links with D’Offay in January 2018 after the Observer revealed that he was facing allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour dating from 1997 to 2004. He denies the claims.

Last year members of the art community challenged the Tate’s decision to resume links with D’Offay, amid questions over the steps it took to investigate the allegations.

Earlier this year the Tate faced further embarrassment over D’Offay after its attempts to express support for the Black Lives Matter movement on social media backfired. Its critics recirculated a selfie image that D’Offay had taken in 2017 of himself posing in a mirror with a golliwog. The Tate responded to accusations of hypocrisy by saying: “We do not condone racist imagery, abuse or discrimination inside Tate, our galleries or digital platforms.”

Now the Tate says it has severed all connection with D’Offay. In a brief statement it said: “Tate and Anthony d’Offay have agreed to end their relationship. This involves the return of works on loan to Tate from Anthony d’Offay and Anthony d’Offay Ltd and the removal of public signage at Tate.”

The Tate said it would not be commenting further. D’Offay was contacted by the Guardian but declined to comment. The agreement to remove signage was a central demand of the Tate’s critics.

In 2008, D’Offay sold almost his entire art collection to the Tate and National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) for the price he had paid originally rather than what it was worth.

It included works by Joseph Beuys, Gilbert & George, Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst. At the time, the then Tate director, Nicholas Serota, called it “one of the most generous gifts that has ever been made to museums in this country”.

D’Offay’s former collection is displayed in the Artist Rooms, a joint initiative with the Tate and NGS. This would not be affected by the changes, the Tate said.

A spokeswoman for NGS suggested it was also considering breaking links with D’Offay. She said: “The board of trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland will consider our future relationship with Mr D’Offay at their next meeting.”

Meanwhile, Tate staff are taking part in strike action in a dispute over proposed job cuts that the PCS union and others say will disproportionately affect black and minority ethnic staff. More than 300 jobs are at risk in its commercial arm Tate Enterprises – which operates retail, publishing and catering – where a higher proportion of staff are minority ethnic.

A PCS spokesman said: “We are glad that the Tate have taken this action and hope this is the first step in dealing with these institutional issues particularly in relation to arts funding.”

Industria, a collective of artists that led criticism of the Tate’s relationship with D’Offay, urged it to go further. In a statement it said: “The removal of his name is a welcome development that has come after three years of continued pressure from a number of working groups. However, [it]fails to address in any way the trauma compounded by the institution through the excuses they have continued to make around their relationship with D’Offay during that time. Until now, Tate had continued to insist publicly that there was no ongoing formal relationship with him.”

It added: “Tate’s statement does not account for the continued racial bias in the Artist Rooms collection, something which the removal of his name will not remedy. It also maintains a silence around institutional racism that runs deep within Tate and will not end with D’Offay’s removal. The mass redundancies we are seeing now are a symptom of the same major ethical failings which sustain this structural racism.”

Industria called for a new robust and independent ethics committee to hold the Tate to account.

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