Yesterday, (8th March), on International Women’s Day, artist and activist Liv Wynter quit her job as artist in residence for education, schools and learning at the Tate in protest over how she believes the institution is failing women on the topics of sexual harassment and diversity.
Liv Wynter, who is an activist for Sisters Uncut, published an open resignation letter via her website in which she spoke of the “invisible inequalities” perpetuated by the institution, making specific reference to recent comments made by the institution’s director Maria Balshaw.
Maria Balshaw recently commented in an interview with The Times, “I personally have never suffered any such issues. Then, I wouldn’t. I was raised to be a confident woman who, when I encountered harassment, would say: ‘Please don’t’ … or something rather more direct.” She later took to Instagram to retract the claims, stating “I am sorry if this has been misunderstood. It is absolutely not my intention to say that women are in any way to blame. To be clear, it is the perpetrators who are responsible for their behaviour and not the women who are subjected to it.”
“These comments come during a powerful reckoning on sexual assault and harassment, with the creative industries pledging to make change through campaigns such as #MeToo and #TimesUp,” Liv wrote.
“I attended the public meeting hosted at Tate Modern with Maria, hoping that she would apologise and hold her hands up. I was saddened to watch a woman still completely unable to take ownership of anything but self proclaimed ‘ignorance’. She was confident in saying she didn’t understand how previous remarks she had made regarding black men and fried chicken could be seen as racist. She was also confident in saying that the journalist she spoke to at The Times had taken her comments out of context. Maria seemed to have no accountability, and used ignorance as a weapon to rid her of all sins.”
“I cannot describe to you the personal shame I feel as a survivor of domestic violence, to work for someone who could think so little of me whilst simultaneously profiting off my ‘survivorness’ and the work I dare to make about it,” Liv continued.
The Tate recently suspended contact with art dealer Anthony d’Offay, one of it’s biggest donors in light of revelations made by The Observer that he was facing historic allegations of harassment and inappropriate behaviour from 1997 to 2004. D’Offay denies the claims.
In a statement, the institution commented that Maria Balshaw had since apologised to staff for the comments, and claimed that it did not recognise events described by Liv Wynter.
Sister magazine, which was due to launch its latest issue, The Sad Issue, at the Tate Modern this Saturday, 10th March, has cancelled the event. The publication posted a statement on Instagram in which it stated “We stand with, and support our friend Liv Wynter. She is the voice of many, and we respect her bravery. The Sad Issue focusses heavily on sexual abuse, personal rape experience, the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement and it would feel wrong to have a panel discussion also focussing on those topics at the Tate Modern, considering the comments made by director Maris Balshaw.”
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