in other words

Everything you ever wanted to know about the art market but didn't know who to ask
14 February 2019

Host Charlotte Burns and Sir Nicholas Serota

#51 Sir Nicholas Serota: “We all want to know what it means to be alive today”

BY Charlotte Burns
executive editor of In Other Words

The man credited with reinventing the museum and changing British culture, Sir Nicholas Serota joins us for a special extended episode of In Other Words.

Now Chair of Arts Council England, Serota was the director of Tate for 28 years. More than anybody else, he helped shift attitudes in Britain, making the country more comfortable with contemporary art while he oversaw the growth of Tate both physically and in terms of reputation and ambition. Once a small institution, Tate became a phenomenon and the best attended museum of Modern art in the world.

Serota began his career in the 1980s during a period in which the country’s politics were isolationist and there was a “certain paranoia about continental Europe and artists from Europe”. By the early 2000s, the country had become more international and open, and the arts were flourishing as London established itself as a creative and economic hub.

Recorded on the day of a historic defeat in the government’s “meaningful vote” on Brexit, Serota discusses the current climate with our host Charlotte Burns: “Some things don’t change. And human nature is one of those. People feel challenged by difference.”

While he himself is “always regarded as being right in the center of the establishment… I still have a sense of what it means to be an outsider,” Serota says. “I will continue to believe that international exchange of all kinds is valuable.”

He discusses running one of the world’s largest museums—including why he never left for an American museum—and talks about the challenges facing institutional leaders today: “Whatever the difficulties were in the late ‘80s, it’s become even more difficult to run these big institutions now than it was then.”

For this, and much more, tune in now.


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Editor Charlotte Burns