A floor-to-ceiling mural at a British restaurant has been labeled “offensive” by an ethics committee. The mural, which is about one hundred years old, was painted by Rex Whistler when he was twenty-three-years-old. The mural scene depicts enslaved children and caricatures of Chinese persons on “The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats,” as the artwork is entitled. The mural was Whistler’s attempt to narrate the grand adventures people of old had to go on in order to source foods and goods from exotic parts of the world.
The artwork was restored back in 2013 despite showing enslaved Black children in ropes. However, the mural came under attack in July after the “White Pube” critics complained about the mural’s outdated content. The critique group has gained international recognition in recent years and was described by Vogue Magainze as “self-styled cowboy critics shaking up the arts establishment.”
The group said that mural was perfect as a backdrop for “rich white people drinking wine with some choice of slavery in the background.”
Tate Britain’s ethics committee, which was then led by Moya Greene, conducted a thorough review of the mural. Greene told the board that members were “unequivocal in their view that the imagery of the work is offensive.”
Green added, “the offense is compounded by the use of the room as a restaurant.”
Despite slapping the painting with an “offensive” label, the committee defended the mural, saying it “is a work of art in the care of trustees and should not be altered or removed.”
Now, the gallery’s dining room, which is often graced by the presence of elite politicians and arrogant art critics now may have to close its doors.
This adds another blow to the restaurant’s hopes and dreams. It has been closed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic and is expected to remain closed until August 2021 because the gallery does not expect to attract many visitors during the pandemic.
One British politician, Diane Abott, suggested that Britain’s Tate move the restaurant due to the controversial mural.
“I have eaten in the Rex Whistler restaurant at Tate Britain. I had no idea famous mural had repellent images of black slaves. Museum management needs to move the restaurant. Nobody should be eating surrounded by imagery of black slaves.”
Activists have created a petition online to get the mural removed forever: “The reality of the room is truly grotesque. Where the older white demographic can go to enjoying their expensive gluttony whilst they view with amusement, a room purposefully painted with chained up black children. Sounds more like a concept for a horror film than what you would expect Britain’s largest Art institution to offer up as an exclusive dining experience.”
Prior to the outrage, Tate Britain referred to the Rex Whistler restaurant as “the most amusing room in Europe.”
The gallery issued a statement following the controversy.
“Tate has been open and transparent about the deeply problematic racist imagery in the Rex Whistler mural. In the context of the Mayor of London’s recently announced public realm review, Tate’s establishment of a race equality taskforce, and the ongoing work of our Ethics Committee, we are continuing to actively discuss how best to address the mural, and we will keep the public updated over the coming months.”