Founded in 1897 the Tate museum attracts more than five million visitors annually. This does not come as a surprise with a collection spread across 4 branches and over 68,000 pieces of art. Recently the Tate released data on their collection, including artists, mode of acquisition, and year. This information shed some light on their catalogue and most intriguingly, on the manner in which they acquired their art and some interesting theme trends.
Surprisingly 57% of the artwork at the Tate was bequeathed by the estate of the the artist or the widow; that’s an astounding 39,000 pieces. This showcases an incredible love and trust in the institution. Another 41% of the art was either purchased or presented to the museum.
I was surprised to find that 326 pieces had been gifted anonymously to the Tate. Specifically, I was curious to see if there were any common denominators. Thus I cross referenced the anonymous donations with the list of artists. Apparently Sir Eduardo Paolozzi’s works accounted for an astounding 53 art pieces gifted anonymously.
Considering Sir Eduardo holds 1% of artwork at the Tate, there is a lot of love coming from those anonymous donor(s). Though the chart below does seem to favor England’s own Joseph Turner , one must keep in mind that the Tate holds the largest collection of Turner artwork in the world. Just snagging a slice of the pie for the other artists is a pretty impressive feat.
Because the largest portion of artwork acquired at the Tate came from Turner’s creative years: 1800 – 1850, it is no surprise to see art from that time period dominate their gallery thanks to a heavy amount of donations to the institute.
Once we zoom in on the above graph, past the Turner dominated years, we can see a few interesting trends. If you were in the market to have some of your art purchased by the museum or a third party who’d then present it to the museum, you’d have a greater chance of success if your art was created between 1960 and 1970.
Not surprisingly a large amount of purchases were of the pieces during Warhol’s Era.
Working with the dataset, there were some recurring themes that jumped out. I was interested to see how terms like “Lord” or “Satan” might compare to “Venus” or “Goddess” with regards to acquisition methods. Based on the percentage graph below, themes including Venus and Goddess were bequeathed the most, followed by Christ and Death. You’ll also notice Satan, Christ and Mother were the most purchased themes.
These themes could have more to do with the artist though than the mode of acquisition. As previously mentioned, the Tate Museum has an impressive collection of Joseph Turner. He does indeed account for most of the Venus and Goddess contributions, as well as many of the Christ themes.
I wanted to look specifically at male or female representations within the Tate collection, which is why these certain terms were called out, though there are many more themes to explore. Want to find your own insights into the Tate Museum’s collections? Access the dataset with added themes here, import it into DataHero from Google Drive, and make your own observations.
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