‘The Curator’s Choice’? Wheelchair User Calls Out Olafur Eliasson’s Tate Modern Show For Lack of Accessibility

In further news: London mayor backs proposal for new slavery museum to fight racism; fire at Singapore Art Museum

Olafur Eliasson, Your spiral view, 2002, installation view, Fondation Beyeler, Basel. Courtesy: the artist and Boros Collection, Berlin; photograph: Jens Ziehe

Olafur Eliasson, Your spiral view, 2002, installation view, Fondation Beyeler, Basel. Courtesy: the artist and Boros Collection, Berlin; photograph: Jens Ziehe

A visitor to Olafur Eliasson’s exhibition at London’s Tate Modern has sparked a debate over a lack of accessibility in art galleries. Ciara O’Connor, who uses a wheelchair, visited the exhibition on 9 August 2019. She tweeted a series of criticisms of the Eliasson show, after she was unable to enter the artist’s work Your Spiral View (2002), a cylindrical house of mirrors which is currently only accessible through a set of steps. O’Connor said that a gallery attendant, when asked if a ramp was available, became ‘cross and weirdly defensive’ and said that the lack of a ramp was ‘the curator’s choice’. In a statement, the gallery said that no ramp could be provided because the gangway was too narrow for wheelchair use. The artist responded on Twitter, saying that he was ‘exploring solutions with Tate’ in order to make the work more accessible.

London mayor Sadiq Khan has backed calls for a new British slavery museum in London to challenge racism. The proposal was initially set out by the Fabian Society, which argues that without a proper reckoning with the country’s history, racial inequality will continue. In a report for the think tank, Omar Khan, director of the Runnymede Trust, writes: ‘It is unacceptable that the capital city of a nation that built a global empire and its wealth in large part as a result of its role in the slave trade has no significant museum or monument marking the role that London and Britain played in these historic atrocities.’ The Fabians say that such an institution could help in the fight against discrimination towards the UK capital’s black and minority ethnic population. Khan said: ‘Learning more about the uncomfortable nature of our city and our nation’s role in the transatlantic slave trade can serve to deepen our understanding of the past and strengthen our commitment to fight racism and hatred in all its forms.’

A fire broke out at Singapore Art Museum on 11 August 2019, according to Art Asia Pacific. The gallery was closed for refurbishment and no injuries or neighbouring damage was reported. The USD$90 million renovation of SAM was started in 2017, with the project expected to be completed in 2021. An investigation into the causes of the blaze is currently under way.

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