Cornelia Parker, 'Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View' 1991
Cornelia Parker
Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View 1991
Mixed media
unconfirmed: 4000 x 5000 x 5000 mm
Presented by the Patrons of New Art (Special Purchase Fund) through the Tate Gallery Foundation 1995© Cornelia Parker

The Board of Trustees determines policy and, together with senior Tate staff, sets the strategic direction for Tate. It oversees the management of the gallery, with the Trustees acting as guardians of the public interest.

The Board decides on major acquisitions and resource allocations. It represents Tate externally, and monitors the organisation’s performance against its agreed objectives.

In 2008, Tate expanded the number of Trustees on the Board from twelve to fourteen. Thirteen of these are appointed by the Prime Minister, and one is a member of the National Gallery Board of Trustees. Correspondingly, one of Tate’s Trustees sits on the National Gallery Board.

In line with the Museums and Galleries Act 1992, three of Tate’s Trustees must be practising artists. The Board chooses a Chair from among its own number.

Role of the Trustees

As both a publicly funded institution and a charity, Tate sets down guidelines for what is expected in Trustees’ conduct.

The role of the Board of Trustees of the Tate Gallery is to:

  • determine policy
  • supervise the Gallery, acting as guardians for the public interest
  • use its joint experience to advise the Director
  • decide on major acquisitions and major resource issues
  • represent the Gallery externally
  • assist in fundraising from the private sector
  • establish the overall strategic direction of the Gallery within the policy and resources framework available and ensure there is a distinction between these and day-to-day management decisions, delegated to the Director
  • oversee the delivery of planned results by monitoring performance against agreed strategic objectives and targets.

Role of the Chair

The Chair should ensure that all members of the Board, when taking up office, are fully briefed on the terms of their appointment and on their duties and responsibilities.

The Chair has particular responsibilities for providing effective leadership to the Board, including:

  • signing, on behalf of the Trustees, the annual accounts and, with the Accounting Officer, the Statement of Internal Control, the Funding Agreement, the Management Statement and the Financial Memorandum
  • formulating the Board’s approach to its duties
  • representing the views of the Board to the general public
  • ensuring that the Board, in reaching decisions, takes proper account of guidance by the government
  • encouraging high standards of propriety
  • ensuring that the Board meetings take place as scheduled and that minutes of meetings accurately record decisions taken and, where appropriate, the views of the individual Board members
  • ensuring that the full proper procedures are carried through for consultation and approval of appointments to the Board and Sub Committees and for discussion of other appointments in which the Board has an interest
  • ensuring that Board members may speak when they need to
  • ensuring that, if necessary, a vote is taken and the result recorded
  • providing an assessment of performance of individual Board members which contributes to consideration of their re-appointment to the Board
  • advising the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) over the selection of new Trustees as part of the delegated appointments process
  • liaising with the Director, and guiding his or her work
  • The Chair also has an important role in communicating the views of the Board to government. Communication of this sort will be through the Chair and Director except where the Board has agreed that other Trustees should act on its behalf or should raise issues relating to their duties as members of the Board.

Public service responsibilities of the Board

Trustees have responsibility for ensuring that Tate complies with statutory or administrative requirements for the use of public funds, and ensuring that Public Service Values are met at Tate.

The Board is expected to:

  • ensure high standards of corporate governance at all times
  • be responsible for overseeing Tate’s affairs and determining the policies and overall strategy for the organisation within the policy and resources framework agreed by the DCMS. It must also provide a critical commentary on current activities and the overall direction of Tate
  • maximise value for money through ensuring that its responsibilities are discharged in the most efficient, effective and economical way within available resources
  • be accountable to the public for the activities of Tate. The Board is responsible for providing Parliament (including Select Committees) with as full information as may be requested about its decisions and actions. The Board should conduct all its dealings with the public in an open and responsible way
  • observe the highest standards of impartiality, integrity and objectivity in relation to its responsibilities including the stewardship of public funds. It should be able to demonstrate that resources are being used with probity and without grounds for criticism that public funds are being used for private, partisan or party political purposes
  • take into account, in reaching decisions, any guidance issued by the government
  • promote equality and diversity throughout Tate’s work, within the terms of the Race Relations Act, the Disability Discrimination Act, and equal opportunities legislation
  • ensure prompt responses to public requests for information, and meeting other requirements for openness and responsiveness set out in the Freedom of Information Act
  • take specific responsibility for sustainable development and operate within the framework of the government’s Sustainable Development Strategy, following the priorities set by the sponsoring Department.

Role of an individual Board member

In tandem with the public service responsibilities of the Board, Trustees also have individual responsibilities. Individual Board members should:

  • be aware of their wider responsibilities as members of the Board. Like others who serve the public, they should follow the Seven Principles of Public Life set out by the Committee on Standards in Public Life (the Nolan Committee), set out below
  • act in good faith and in the best interests of the public and the Gallery
  • not use information gained in the course of their duties as Trustees for personal gain
  • not seek to use the opportunity of public service to promote their private interests
  • comply with the Board’s rules on the acceptance of gifts and hospitality
  • formally register any direct or indirect personal or pecuniary interests which may conflict with their responsibilities as Trustees in their Declaration of Interests or by declaring an interest at a meeting. Further advice on handling conflicts of interest is set out under Register of Trustees’ Interests
  • undertake to comply at all times with the recommendations set out on Trustees’ conduct, and with rules relating to the use of public funds.

The Seven Principles of Public Life


Holders of the public office should take decisions solely in line with the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.


Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.


In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.


Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.


Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands it.


Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in any way that protects the public interest.


Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.