Tate’s pen por­traits taken from Wikipedia

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Joel Adams

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.”

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