Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate and co-curator of Gerhard Richter: Panorama at Tate Modern, standing in front of Richter's Cage 4 2006
Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate and co-curator of Gerhard Richter: Panorama at Tate Modern, standing in front of Richter's Cage 4 2006

Why are we doing the Gauguin show? It is not simply because we’ve reached ‘G’ in the alphabet, it is part of a programme for Tate Modern to show the antecedents and foundations of modern art as we know it. Gauguin is one of those key figures, both for modernism and, I would say, for an anti-modernist, way of working. We have done a series of shows that have looked at the early part of the twentieth century, including the great Matisse Picasso show in 2002 and those shows that have paired artists, such as Albers-Moholy Nagy. But for me, this exhibition is very much a sequel to the Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris exhibition in 2005/2006, where we presented an artist who had been enormously influential on the next generation - Picasso, Braque and Matisse - but whose work was perhaps slightly hidden and forgotten, and set out to reveal the quality of that work. The exhibition showed his work in its social and political context, but also why it was important for that next generation of artists. There is often a question about when you do exhibitions. It is not simply Gauguin’s ‘turn’. We try to anticipate and to stimulate interest and hope that shows will come at the right time to spark a real reaction. We think it is the right time now, in part because of the way artists are reacting to Gauguin. In recent years, exhibitions such as those of Peter Doig and Chris Ofili at Tate Britain, have disclosed a renewed enthusiasm for Gauguin’s work. But there are other aspects. Gauguin is an artist who created his own persona and established his own myth as to what kind of a man he was. That is highly relevant when you come to think about an artist like Damien Hirst, or even Gilbert and George, or other artists who have created their own identity. So, I feel that this is a great moment to present a Gauguin exhibition, as it is something that seems very current.

Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate 


Gertrud Mander

A fascinating exhibition which reveals how Gauguin created a Tahiti in his mind, and also created a passive Tahitian woman for himself. A rather omnipotent masculine fantasy, which enabled him to develop his very own myth and live this myth to the end.

deirdre mcardle

dear Nic, might you consider throwing your weight behind local objections here in North Kensington (until recently a Labour ward) to our old water tower on the canal being destroyed.Derwent London a virulent Developer,to say the least hold sway here now in collusion with K&C they are trying to promote a bogus "creative hub" (bleugch !) but are infact estate agents writ large.We need clout person to point out the savings to the public art budget,as this already is that ! (see Bernd&Hilla Belcher-from Nigel's seminal show of the 70"s) This symbolic,totemic form,speaks to all of us who came here in the 70s ,to this truly creative place of the REAL world.These new Nottinghill 'shoebuyers' and bubble lamp designers,who hate the poor will kill us all,if we let them. (See SUSD Architects Water Tower House) Ask Richard (Deacon)he'll tell you I'm not a nutter.I do this now,since I was the only person allowed to demonstrate outside the american embassy day after 9/11 etc etc. Please try and help.

Fiona Stanbury

I can't wait to see this exhibition, as I paint the female figure, and have loved Gauguin since college. But what prompted me to post a comment- and maybe Gauguin would have approved - was Deirdre's post above, about the destruction of the environment for what are often projects with a big money-bias. Here in Tunbridge Wells there is talk of the whole town hall/library/museum/theatre complex being pulled down in favour of new flats/shops (a John Lewis, so I've heard). So goodbye to a social hub, and a place for artists to show. (I believe that the police station is also to go.) Perhaps we should all go off to an island somewhere, where life is simpler. Gauguin's works will be a lovely escape into someone's inner vison, yet he was someone who battled rules and institutions.

deirdre mcardle

Becher, sorry.

Ella Cole

I look forward with interest to this exhibition, as an art student the Tate continues to provide a wealth of interesting and stimulating exhibitions, this aids and helps all aspects of my practice. I went to see the Picasso exhibition in Liverpool this summer and the relationship between these two great cannons of 20th century art will hopefully slowly be revealed to me! To Mr. Serota i might mention that it is not just male artists that create myths around there personas....

rob farmer

Massively looking forward to Gauguin, he's always been a favourite. But is it right to suggest he constructed a myth about himself, isn't The Tate just perpetuating the narrow mindedness around Gauguin in the show title?


I love the concept of this exhibition. I find it incredible that there hasn't been any major retrospectives of Gaugin's work for 50 years in this country - so well done to the Tate for bringing some much needed attention towards this great artist!

Mimi Jones

The colors! They're exploding in my head a day later. It's a magnificent show & the audio guide one of the best I've tried.