Tate’s pen portraits taken from Wikipedia
THE Tate has become embroiled in a row with leading art historians after using Wikipedia entries for some artists’ biographies.
Famous names from the past and contemporary artists who feature in the nation’s most illustrious collection of modern and British art appear on the gallery’s website with text imported from the free online encyclopedia.
The list includes contemporary artists Ai Weiwei, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, as well as past masters including Henri Matisse, Sir Anthony van Dyck, Sir Peter Lely and Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
David Hockney, whose 2017 Tate Britain retrospective was the most popular in the gallery’s history with 478,000 visitors, is afforded just three sentences taken from Wikipedia.
Art historians have criticised the Tate as “pathetic”, but the gallery defended the practice, saying Wikipedia – which can be edited be any user and is regularly found to have published inaccuracies – was “frequently the most up-to-date source of information”.
Some artists get purpose-written biographies.
Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp have their own entries, and the webpage for Sir Francis Bacon includes a 1,400-word biography credited to Bacon biographer Matthew Gale, the Tate’s head of displays. Wikipedia’s entry on Bacon is available on that webpage on a subsidiary tab.
But some pages have nothing but Wikipedia information. The change happened two years ago when the gallery overhauled its website.
A spokesman said the gallery had not removed text written by its own curators but had removed content from third party sources, and imported Wikipedia text for biographies when such content existed.
Art historian Dr Bendor Grosvenor told The Telegraph: “I think it’s a rather pathetic reflection of the way the Tate values its position as an authoritative voice on British art.
“As the nation’s pre-eminent gallery of British art, it has a responsibility to present accurate, authoritative facts about the artists responsible for the greatest works of art.”