The new director of the celebrated galleries has a tough act to follow – the giant presence of Nicholas Serota – but already she is charting her own course. Expect emphasis on youth and diversity
The new Tate director, Maria Balshaw, can pinpoint the explosive moment that started her journey to the job: visiting a blown-up shed. In 1991, a Cornelia Parker installation, Cold Dark Matter, saw the artist hang pieces of a detonated garden shed from the ceiling. “It was absolutely the most exciting thing I’d ever seen,” she recalled. Twenty-four years later, she re-opened the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester with the work forming a cornerstone of a new Parker exhibition. But it is owned by the Tate, of course.
Balshaw took over the top job – overseeing all four Tate galleries – last month, replacing Sir Nicholas Serota. After 29 years in the job, he’s credited with not only turning Tate into one of the world’s most successful art brands, but also for radically changing the British public’s relationship with culture, ushering in an unexpected (and at times tempestuous) love affair with contemporary art.