TATE BUYS TRUSTEE CHRIS OFILI'S THE UPPER ROOM FOR £705,000
This site first drew attention to the fact that Chris Ofili, whose work The Upper Room was a major purchase
by the Tate trustees, is himself one of those trustees, who had earlier asked other artists to donate work.


Pages on this site about the Chris Ofili Upper Room Tate trustee scandal
Intro
Censure Press Jon Snow censored Trustee minutes: Jan + May 2003 - Jul 2003 - Nov 2003 - Jan 2005 Trustees Letters - Dossier to Charity Commission and DCMS - to Chris Ofili - to Paul Myners - to Tate Legal Questions Background Poem

INTRODUCTION

Contents of pages on this site about the Chris Ofili Upper Room Tate trustee scandal
Some material has been superceded by events, but is preserved out of historical interest.
Press

Tate censured by Charity Commission (2006) The Charity Commission deemed that the Ofili purchase was illegal.
Press coverage
Selected links charting the press coverage of the scandal
Channel 4 TV newsreader John Snow censored
His missing question in the official Tate minutes
Trustees
Jan/May 2003 - Jul 2003 - Nov 2003 - Jan 2005 (notes)
Tate Trustee Minutes on The Upper Room purchase.
Secret discussions about the purchase of Chris Ofili's The Upper Room in a deal with Victoria Miro and five anonymous clients-cum-benefactors. Extracts obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
Tate Trustees The board that run the Tate, as they were in 2006

Letters
Dossier sent to Charity Commission and DCMS (word doc) on conflict of interest (28.10.05).
Letter sent to Chris Ofili (or word doc here), (19.10.05) asking him to refund the money. He has not replied.
Letter to Tate Chairman Paul Myners (word doc), about Tate minutes and withholding the price (19.9.05).
Letter to Tate Head of Legal (word doc), appealing against the decision to withhold the price (19.9.05).

Data
Unanswered questions The points that had still not been explained at the end of 2005.
Upper Room background (word doc) - timeline of Tate minutes, emails and auction prices for Ofili's work.
Poem

A Failing in My Head Poem about Sir Nicholas Serota


TATE'S ILLEGAL PURCHASE OF TRUSTEE CHRIS OFILI'S WORK THE UPPER ROOM
The 'Ofili trustee' story first appeared on this site.
In 2006 the Charity Commission ruled that the Tate's 2005 purchase of its trustee Chris Ofili's work The Upper Room for £705,000 was illegal and that the Tate had been acting illegally for 50 years in this way. This followed considerable press coverage of the matter, initiated by Charles Thomson, Co-founder of the Stuckists, who obtained Tate Trustee minutes and forced the Tate to reveal the price of the work under the Freedom of Information Act, as detailed below.

In October 2004 the Tate said it had insufficient funds to maintain contemporary acquisitions and appealed to artists to donate work. Tate trustee Chris Ofili wrote in the press to support the appeal. Leading artists such as David Hockney pledged to donate. In July 2005 the Tate announced a major purchase of Chris Ofili's work The Upper Room - 13 mixed media works on canvas with paint and elephant dung. The secret fund-raising drive to buy the work had been running concurrently with the Tate's appeal for other artists to donate work.

There was no indication that Ofili was a serving trustee in the Tate press release (July 2005), which announced this purchase and none press reports at the time mentioned it. It only became public knowledge when the Stuckists informed the press and it was then reported in the Sunday Telegraph.

Under the Freedom of Information Act the Tate the Stuckists obtained trustee minutes about the purchase and finally the price of it (£705,000 including VAT), which the Tate initially refused to divulge. In a letter to Charles Thomson on 21 October 2005, Tate Chairman Paul Myners admitted the Tate had been wrong to keep the price secret: "We are not perfect: your argument was persuasive." Ben Newman, Head of Tate Legal, admitted there was "a legitimate public interest in the sum "paid" to a trustee."

There were four sources of funding needed to raise the total price: Tate general funds £120,000; Tate Members £100,000; National Art Collections Fund (NACF) £75,000; and five anonymous private benefactors.

These private benefactors were sourced by Victoria Miro, the gallerist for Ofili, as part of a deal where they bought individual paintings by Ofili from her. They also donated money to the Tate for the Upper Room purchase, which the Tate then returned to her. The exact details of this arrangement have not been explained.

For a more detailed account, see the article linked below "Is Serota Dead in the Water?"



Stuckists in Observer (11.12.05) Sources close to the Tate think the 'Ofili affair' would never have happened without the Stuckists.
(Sources close to the Stuckists think it would never have happened without the Tate.)
STUCKISTS TURNER PRIZE DEMO 2005 over the Ofili purchase: see here

From the November 2005 Tate trustee minutes concerning the purchase of Tate trustee Chris Ofili's work The Upper Room for £705,000:
"The Chair [Paul Myners] expressed his sympathy to Chris over the events of the past few weeks, when this matter had been the subject of considerable press interest, some of which had been inaccurate or incomplete"

(And the rest bang on target presumably.) For an accurate and complete account see:
IS SEROTA DEAD IN THE WATER?
on counterpunch.org - "America's best political newsletter".
Also on www.heyokamagazine.com
with photos
"Good article" - Edward Lucie-Smith
"After reading your piece someone says she is cancelling her membership of the Art Fund"
- Selby Wittingham, Independent Turner Society

A FAILING IN MY HEAD: Sir Nicholas Serota poem

"I've never asked the Tate why they paid so much more for Chris Ofili's work than they did for mine"
Tracey Emin, Independent on Sunday (12.3.06)

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