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Through Art Market & You, Art From Us provides you Analysis, Opinion and Factual Reports regarding the current on-goings of the Global Art Market. In this article, we discuss Tate’s reliance on Wikipedia.

Trouble at the Tate

Recently, British Art historian and art dealer Bendor Grosvenor wrote an article on social media. In it, he questioned the Tate for adding wikipedia links to their website entries.

Tate is unquestionably, one of the world’s leading authorities on art. It consists of a network of four museums. Namely Tate Modern, Tate Britain in London and two more spaces in Liverpool and St. Ives. For art lovers and scholars, visiting any of these galleries is like going on an art pilgrimage.

The research sources at the Tate, including its website, have long been used by art students, researchers and scholars alike. Apart from housing an exquisite collection of art, the institution is lauded as a reliable source of information. Featuring articles by some of the art world’s leading authorities.

Two years ago however, the gallery started adding wikipedia links to their website entries. Articles written by art historians started being replaced with crowd sourced information that was often inaccurate.

Grosvenor’s Article

In his article, Grosvenor writes :

“It was while looking into Van Dyck’s English period that I noticed that he has no biography on the Tate’s website. Instead, there is a link to Wikipedia. This misspells his name and contains a number of mistakes and unfounded generalisations.”

Grosvenor further goes on to express his disappointment at the fact that the Tate, which once used to be the leading authority on Van Dyck, now simply directs researchers to his wikipedia page.

The Tate’s Retaliation

The situation brings to light the difficult reality of cultural institutions around the world. In the UK, there have been sustained funding cuts in the arts since 2010. Reacting to Grosvenor’s article and the barrage of social media posts, the gallery released the following statement :

“The motivation for adding Wikipedia biographies is that, as there are so many artists in the collection, which is growing all the time we do not have the resources to create biographies for every individual. Likewise we do not have the resources to regularly update existing biographies, which means that for living artists these can often become outdated. On the other hand Wikipedia pages are constantly being reviewed and renewed, so are usually more up to date than other artists biographies found online. We felt the best way of championing art and artists is to provide the most up to date and reliable biography possible within the constraints of our resources.”

The Wider Issue

The issue is not restricted to just one institution. We are all guilty of the infrequent wikipedia search for basic information on a particular subject. However, by saying that wikipedia is their best bet in light of resource restrictions, the Tate is possibly opening the floodgates to a complete contamination of academia. While living artists are still around to clarify facts about their own work. The distortion of facts and confusion regarding dead artists can have serious repercussions on the market.

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