It is an absolute honour to have Tate Modern’s director, Frances Morris speaking at our W Project x Tate Exchange symposium tomorrow evening! As the innovative thinker and visionary that is Frances Morris, she’s been an incredible inspiration to us and many generations of creative women. She has played a significant role in the development of Tate over the past decades since she joined the British art institution as a curator in 1987. In 2000 she was appointed Head of Displays, then Director of Collection, International Art before becoming Tate Modern’s first female director in April 2016. Morris has been an advocate champion of female artists throughout her career, curating major retrospectives of artists such as Yayoi Kusama, Agnes Martin and Louise Bourgeois. But her focus doesn’t lie exclusively on women, Frances Morris promotes diversity on all levels, making sure artists from diverse cultures and backgrounds are being seen and heard.
The topic of diversity has always been present in Frances Morris’ work, be it inside or outside of the gallery space. As someone who knows education is a key factor in this, she is a firm believer in the importance of art in education, state education as well as fair and unlimited access to art. In an interview with Charlotte Higgins for The Guardian, Morris shares how she intends to push Tate Modern forward,“It will be both a much more international programme and one that reflects the composition of the city we live in…It’s a public collection, and I’m an old-fashioned public servant, but I am super-serving a certain type of public at the moment.” Frances Morris is referring to the importance of diversifying not only the artists being showcased but also the audience visiting the gallery space, “We don’t have an audience that reflects the communities or economic groups that live within our vicinity. The fantastic opportunity with this new [Tate Modern] building is that we are a gateway to south London now. Growing up in south London, I had the National Maritime Museum at the end of my street, and that had a huge impact on my life. If it rained I went to the museum, and I had fantastic experiences, really deep early experiences. I would love to think that Tate Modern could not only be the world’s most popular contemporary and modern art museum, but one of the best local museums in the country.”
As an internationally esteemed curator she is respected for her clarity of vision and always having a firm grasp on what is happening, in art as well as on a global scale. Which is why it’s no surprise she’s been considered one of Tate Modern’s boldest curators, significantly shaping the museum’s character. Particularly in its early stages, when alongside Iwona Blazwick, Morris curated the opening displays in an non-chronological manner, showcasing contemporary art next to Monet and Matisse. A highly controversial move at the time that would later on be emulated in gallery spaces and museums all over the world
There is no question that Frances Morris has changed and shaped the way we experience art but is also an inspiration and motivation for every creative to think outside the box. We can’t wait the hear her speak about what she considers to be the future of curation alongside curators and creatives Cairo Clarke and Caroline Simionescu-Marin as well as our co-hosts, Leyla Tahir and Kusheda Mensah.