After Tate Modern in London suspended him for his comments on the delay of a Philip Guston retrospective, senior curator Mark Godfrey will depart the museum for good, the Art Newspaper reports.
“Mark is leaving as part of the voluntary redundancy scheme that has been running across all departments at Tate,” the museum said in a statement. “He will leave behind an outstanding legacy of exhibitions, displays and acquisitions.”
Godfrey joined Tate Modern in 2007, and since that time, he has organized a number of the institution’s most important exhibitions, including surveys for Sigmar Polke, Alighiero Boetti, and Franz West, as well as “Soul of a Nation,” a show about art and the Black Power movement that he organized with Zoé Whitley.
Tate had disciplined Godfrey in October because of a statement he made on Instagram speaking out against the institution’s decision to postpone a Guston show co-organized with the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Included in that retrospective are to be Guston’s famed paintings featuring Ku Klux Klan figures.
[Why Philip Guston abandoned abstraction to confront racism through figuration.]
A spokesperson for the National Gallery said at the time that the organizing institutions were concerned about the “painful” imagery and felt it was best to push the show to 2024. After the decision spawned a controversy throughout the art world, the show was later re-dated, and is now expected to open first in Boston in 2022.
“Cancelling or delaying the exhibition is probably motivated by the wish to be sensitive to the imagined reactions of particular viewers, and the fear of protest,” Godfrey wrote in a since deleted Instagram post. “However, it is extremely patronising to viewers, who are assumed not to be able to appreciate the nuance and politics of Guston’s works. By cancelling or delaying, a message is sent out that the institutions ‘get’ Guston’s Klan paintings, but do not trust their audiences.”
Tate director Maria Balshaw and Tate Modern director Frances Morris faced criticism for the decision to push the show. They responded by writing in Times of London letter, “Tate does not self-censor.”