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Petitions for London’s Tate over racist mural in gallery restaurant

Britain’s Tate museum said it was considering how to address “deeply problematic racist imagery” in a restaurant at one of its London most famous galleries, as anti-racism campaigners called for the art to be removed or the restaurant relocated.

The petition for the change comes as Black Lives Matter protests around the world demand fresh scrutiny of statues, art and artefacts that campaigners say uphold the legacy of slavery and colonialism.

Campaigners have felled monuments to disgraced white leaders and want others removed, while critics say such works should be recognised as part of a nation’s heritage and left to stand as reminding historical symbols.

Banners thanking key workers are seen on the Tate Britain art museum, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain. Image credit REUTERS/John Sibley

Tate declared it was weighing options just yesterday, as Black lawmaker Diane Abbott also called out to move the restaurant out of a room that is painted with such a “repellent” mural.

Tate is a network of four government-sponsored art museums, an institution which represents the United Kingdom's national collection of British art, and international modern and contemporary art. It is not a government institution, but its main sponsor is the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The work celebrated the 1930s artist Rex Whistler - Reginald John "Rex" Whistler was a British artist, designer and illustrator, who was killed in action in the Second World War- and features an enslaved Black boy chained by his neck to a horse and cart and his distressed mother.

“Tate has been open and transparent about the deeply problematic racist imagery in the Rex Whistler mural,” a Tate spokesman announced in a statement.

“We are continuing to actively discuss how best to address the mural and we will keep the public updated over the coming months,” he added.

Yet, the restaurant is currently closed due to current coronavirus pandemic.

The Rex Whistler Restaurant. Image credit Rikard Österlund/Tate

Hundreds of people signed an online petition launched this week calling on the central London Tate Britain to remove “The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats” mural or change the restaurant’s location.

“The reality of the room is truly grotesque,” the petition reads.

Abbott, a member of the main opposition Labour party and the first Black woman in Britain to become a member of parliament, also spoke out against the notion of fine dining amongst such “repellent images”.

Abbott posted on Twitter: “Museum management needs to move the restaurant. Nobody should be eating surrounded by imagery of black slaves”.

A statement on the restaurant website acknowledges that the 1927 mural includes “offensive” and “unacceptable” content, which it says reflected common attitudes in Britain at the time it was painted.

“We hope to tell a more inclusive story of British art and identity and confront these difficult and offensive histories,” it added.


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