In an unexpected twist, the Tate announced on Wednesday it would turn over an extensive archive of materials from the estate of Francis Bacon donated by a close confidant of the Irish-born painter, after scholars raised questions about the donations. authenticity.
The move comes just two months after Barry Joule, a Briton who befriended Bacon in 1978 while living in London, canceled his original plans to donate another group of works to the museum after failing to expose the disputed archive, which he donated nearly two decades ago. Joule, who was said to have been in contact with the artist until his death in 1992, threatened to take legal action against the Tate over the rift.
In 2004 Joule donated to the Tate the archive of almost 1,200 items covering drawings and photographs from Bacon’s studio, with an estimated value of £20 million ($25.1 million). At the time, the Tate said it would catalog the gift over a three-year period before making it available for display, but the promised public showcase never materialized. The museum said it was now offering the archive to the donor – a rare but legally permissible move for UK institutions.
In a statement first obtained by the arts journal, the Tate said the Joule archive material had been “researched by art historians, and this research has raised credible doubts about the nature and quality of the material”, continuing that “any potential it held to enhance public understanding of Bacon’s art has been exhausted.” Joule has denied any claims that the archives contain inauthentic material.
In April, reports of the ongoing row intensified when it emerged that academics had cast doubt on Joule’s donation, officially known as the Barry Joule Archive (BJA). Last September, Bacon Estate published Francis Bacon: Shadowswhich quotes a former Tate curator, Andrew Wilson, as saying that “the hand or hands that applied the markings to the material may not have included Bacon to any substantial degree”.
Joule said he instead intended to donate a second group of Bacon’s works – approximately 150 drawings, 10 paintings and other archival materials, including documents and audio recordings – to the National Archives. of the Center Pompidou in France after falling out with the London institution and had already started negotiations. Bacon was the subject of a retrospective focusing on his literary influences in 2019 at the French museum, titled “Bacon: Books and Painting.”
Whether or not Tate’s decision to get rid of the long-standing archive will affect ongoing negotiations between Joule and Pompidou to receive the other installment remains unclear. A representative of the Center Pompidou did not immediately respond to ART news‘ request for comment.