Amount paid by Tate Modern in purchasing Ai Weiwei's "Sunflower Seeds" in February/March 2012

chris crossing made this Freedom of Information request to Tate (Gallery)

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was refused by Tate (Gallery).

Dear The Tate Gallery,

It was announced today by the BBC that part of a work by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has been purchased by Tate Modern. This consists of eight million porcelain representations of sunflower seeds (it is believed that the remaining 92 million seeds from the original work are being returned to the artist):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-...

It was reported that the work was purchased for an undisclosed figure with assistance from the Tate International Council, the Art Fund and private donations.

I am requesting you to disclose the total cost of the purchase of this partial work of art (including any agent's fees or licences), together with a full breakdown of how much was paid by Tate Modern, Tate International Council, and all other bodies or individuals who made financial contributions to the transaction.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Crossing

FOI, Tate (Gallery)

Thank you for your request for information. Your request (our ref: 362)
was received on the 6 March 2012. It will be dealt with under the terms
of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and we will send you a response
within 20 working days.

If you have any queries about this email, please contact me.

Kind regards

Abigail Tadjrishi

On Behalf of Tate's Freedom of Information Group

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Dear FOI,

After submitting my request 'Amount paid by Tate Modern in purchasing Ai Weiwei's "Sunflower Seeds" in February/March 2012', I received an assurance from Abigail Tadjrishi on behalf of Tate's Freedom of Information Group, undertaking to send me a response within 20 working days.

Although this self-imposed deadline has now come and gone, I have received no further communication on this matter, and am still anxiously awaiting a response from The Tate Gallery.

Is there anything that can be done to speed up the process?

Yours sincerely,

chris crossing

Dear The Tate Gallery,

Subject: RE: Freedom of Information request - Amount paid by Tate Modern in purchasing Ai Weiwei's "Sunflower Seeds" in February/March 2012

After submitting the above request, I received an assurance from Abigail Tadjrishi on behalf of Tate's Freedom of Information Group, undertaking to send me a response within 20 working days.

Although this self-imposed deadline has now come and gone, I have
received no further communication on this matter, and am still
anxiously awaiting a response from The Tate Gallery.

Is there anything that can be done to speed up the process?

Yours sincerely,

chris crossing

FOI, Tate (Gallery)

Dear Mr Crossing

Please be aware that the deadline for your request is today.
Unfortunately the relevant staff member dealing with your request is
unexpectedly out of the office today and the response shall therefore be
sent to you tomorrow.

If you have any further queries please let me know.

Many thanks

Abigail Tadjrishi

On Behalf of Tate's Freedom of Information Group

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chris crossing left an annotation ()

Hmm, leaving aside the arithmetic of the dates, you'd have thought the person dealing with the request might have prepared a response before unexpectedly disappearing... Dashed inconvenient!

Dear Abigail Tadjrishi

Thank you for your reply yesterday.

Since, by any reasonable calculation, some form of reply to my request is now due, I wonder whether I might expect to hear further on this matter today?

I trust your colleague is now back at work as normal, or that there is an alternative staff member who can pass on the information I have requested in their absence.

With best regards

chris crossing

Ruth Findlay, Tate (Gallery)

Dear Chris Crossing

Freedom of Information Request - Tate reference 362

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request to Tate dated 6 March
2012 (our reference 362) about Tate’s acquisition of Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower
Seeds sculpture.

I have repeated your request below:

1. I am requesting you to disclose the total cost of the purchase of this
partial work of art (including any agent's fees or licences, together with
a full breakdown of how much was paid by Tate Modern, Tate International
Council, and all other bodies or individuals who made financial
contributions to the transaction.

Please note this is not a “partial work of art”. Although derived from Ai
Weiwei’s commission for the Unilever Series, this is a separate work of
art.

The work has been purchased with assistance from Tate International
Council, the Art Fund, and Stephen and Yana Peel. The total cost of
purchase has been withheld under Section 22 of the Freedom of Information
Act. Section 22 relates to future publication. Please see an outline of
the relevant section of the Act below.

Section 22.
Information intended for future publication.
— (1) Information is exempt information if—
 (a) the information is held by the public authority with a view to its
publication, by the authority or any other person, at some future date
(whether determined or not),

(b)the information was already held with a view to such publication at the
time when the request for information was made, and

(c)it is reasonable in all the circumstances that the information should
be withheld from disclosure until the date referred to in paragraph (a).

(2) The duty to confirm or deny does not arise if, or to the extent that,
compliance with section 1(1)(a) would involve the disclosure of any
information (whether or not already recorded) which falls within
subsection (1).

Section 22 is subject to the public interest test. The information you
requested is held by Tate. However, we publish the cost of acquisitions
annually in September when we release information about the amount paid
for works of art acquired in the preceding financial year. The amounts,
therefore, for individual works of art acquired in the year 2011/12 will
be released at that point, in September 2012, presented collectively to
provide an overview of the acquisitions for the year. Disclosing
information in advance on an individual basis could lead to confusion. In
addition, we do not give out the amounts before that since we do not
formally lay our annual accounts before Parliament until late summer. The
Freedom of Information Group have considered your request and, on balance,
concluded that to disclose the cost of this acquisition at this point is
outweighed by the public interest in disclosing the information
collectively following the publication of the annual accounts in late
summer and that it is reasonable in all the circumstances that the
information should be withheld until that time.

You have requested that the breakdown of the amount is also disclosed.
This information is also held by Tate but is being withheld under Section
43 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act (outlined below). This section of
the Act relates to commercial interests. We expect that this information
will also continue to be withheld when the total cost is disclosed.

Section 43 is again subject to the public interest test and our reasons
for withholding the information are as follows. While the Art Fund will
publish the amount of their contribution to the acquisition in the future,
Tate will not disclose the rest of the breakdown of the cost since to
reveal one of the sum of the parts would reveal the other. Part of the
cost has come from private individuals who have requested that the amount
of their contribution is not disclosed. Tate as a public body is reliant
on the generosity of private individuals and institutions for the purchase
of works of art and we consider that to disclose this information could
therefore prejudice our current and future relationships with such
individuals and institutions if their contributions were to be routinely
disclosed. The Freedom of Information Group has considered your request
and therefore believes, on balance, that the public interest in disclosing
the breakdown of the cost is outweighed by the public interest in
withholding it.

Section 43

Commercial interests.

— (1) Information is exempt information if it constitutes a trade secret.
(2) Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act
would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any
person (including the public authority holding it).

(3) The duty to confirm or deny does not arise if, or to the extent that,
compliance with section 1(1)(a) would, or would be likely to, prejudice
the interests mentioned in subsection (2).

If you are not satisfied with this response to your request for
information, you may seek an internal review of this response by replying
in writing to this letter.  Tate will respond to your request for a review
within 20 working days of the receipt of that request. If you remain
dissatisfied with Tate’s response following an internal review, you may
seek an independent adjudication on the matter from the Information
Commissioner, who can be contacted at:

Wycliffe House,
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire SK9 5AF

Or you may telephone on: Tel: 01625 545 745

Yours sincerely

Ruth Findlay
On behalf of the Freedom of Information Group

   

Ruth Findlay
Corporate Communications Manager, Tate
020 7887 4941
07813 655 406
Please note that any information sent, received or held by Tate may be
disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act 2000

Dear Ruth Findlay,

I thank you for your recent correspondence informing me that Tate is not prepared to make public the information I requested regarding the cost of acquiring a work of art, Ai Weiwei's "Sunflower Seeds".

The original request is as follows:

"I am requesting you to disclose the total cost of the purchase of
this partial work of art (including any agent's fees or licences),
together with a full breakdown of how much was paid by Tate Modern,
Tate International Council, and all other bodies or individuals who
made financial contributions to the transaction."

Let me clarify first of all that I am not concerned with the issue of whether this is a partial work of art or a separate one, and am happy to consider it a work in its own right. Furthermore, I am prepared to forgo that part of my request which asks for a full breakdown of contributions made by individuals, since I understand that private benefactors have a right to privacy regarding their financial affairs.

However, I do feel very strongly that an organisation such as Tate, which receives such a generous financial contribution from the taxpayer, has an obligation to be more open about its financial dealings, and that these are very much in the public interest.

The response you gave to my FOI request cites Section 22 of the FOI Act, claiming that the information I seek is scheduled for publication at a subsequent date. In my interpretation of the Act, the thrust of this particular Section is an intention to prevent any premature disclosure detracting from the impact of publicity - say in the event of a press statement or a book launch, for example.

The fact that your proposed subsequent publication of this information will be in a "collective" form in a September statement of the total cost of acquisitions made during the previous year means that the very information I seek will not be forthcoming at all, but will be bundled together with all the other expenditure made by Tate during the preceding financial year.

At a time when it is an everyday occurrence to see television news items speak openly and in detail about the sums of money paid at auction for works of art, whether by galleries saving them for the nation, or by secretive and eccentric tycoons hell-bent on hoarding them, I consider that Tate should reconsider its stance and make the decision to inform the public of these costs.

You state: "Disclosing 
information in advance on an individual basis could lead to confusion", but I fail to see how. Even if there might be some problem with disclosing this information prior to publication of your September statement, then I would be happy, provided you were prepared to assure the public that you would be willing to declare in your September statement the precise cost of all individual works of art purchased by Tate during the year. Withholding this information only fuels the suspicion in some areas of public life that the taxpayer's money is not being put to the best use.

Your argument "that to disclose the cost of this acquisition at this point is
 outweighed by the public interest in disclosing the information 
collectively following the publication of the annual accounts in late 
summer" is, frankly, meaningless in view of the fact that the information I seek (the cost paid by Tate for the above-mentioned work of art) will not be disclosed in either case.

I therefore respectfully call on you to look at my request once again with a view to adopting a more open stance on this matter for, as I said previously, withholding information only fuels suspicion.

Yours sincerely,

chris crossing

Ruth Findlay, Tate (Gallery)

Dear Chris Crossing

Thank you for your reply to our response to your Freedom of Information
request. I would like to clarify that all of the works acquired in the
financial year 2011/12 will be individually listed in September online,
alongside the amounts for which they were acquired. By "collectively", I
did not mean as an aggregated figure, but as a group of works acquired
in that financial year. My apologies if I have caused confusion with the
use of the word "collectively" in this instance.

Tate has made available online the amounts for works of art since 2006
and these are released in September of each year. Therefore the amount
paid for the work by Ai Weiwei will be released in September of this
year following the publication of the Annual Report.

You go on to say "...I would be happy, provided you were prepared to
assure the public that you would be willing to declare in your September
statement the precise cost of all individual works of art purchased by
Tate during the year." I hope you now feel reassured that we will
undertake to do this.

In the light of this, could you confirm that you are happy not to pursue
an internal review related to this request? If you still intend to ask
for an internal review, please do let me know.

Many thanks

Ruth

Ruth Findlay
On behalf of the Freedom of Information Group, Tate
Please note that any information sent, received or held by Tate may be
disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act 2000

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Dear Ruth,

Thank you so much for your swift response and for your clarification regarding the way in which financial details were to be published in September, and in particular, your explanation of what you meant by the term 'collectively'.

I am happy to say that I think there has been a misunderstanding between us over the interpretation of this phrasing, and I apologise if my tone may have come across as accusatory. Although it is indeed frustrating to have to wait another five months to find out the answer to my initial inquiry, I nonetheless look forward to reading details of Tate's expenditure, and particularly the price paid for Ai Weiwei's work "Sunflower Seeds" when you publish your Annual Report.

I would be grateful if you could inform me as to where I may read these details when they are made public in September - or perhaps you might be able to add my email address to a mailing list so that they reach me automatically?

I thank you for your co-operation over this matter, and am glad to say that, in the light of the above findings, I feel greatly assured and consider there is no need for an internal review to be pursued.

With best wishes.

Yours sincerely,

chris crossing

Ruth Findlay, Tate (Gallery)

Dear Chris

Many thanks for replying. I will let you know as soon as the details go
online and give you the link.

Best wishes

Ruth

Ruth Findlay
Corporate Communications Manager, Tate
020 7887 4941
07813 655 406
Please note that any information sent, received or held by Tate may be
disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act 2000

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Dear Ruth,

That's very kind of you. Thank you once again for your help.

Yours sincerely,

chris crossing

Dear Ruth Findlay,

Further to our correspondence last April regarding the sum paid by The Tate Gallery for the work "Sunflower Seeds" by Ai Weiwei, I am disappointed not to have heard from you, despite your having undertaken to contact me with a link to details of expenditure for the financial year 2011/12 to include the amount paid by The Tate Gallery for the aforementioned work, which you told me would be forthcoming in September.

In your last correspondence, dated 12 April 2012, you assured me: "I will let you know as soon as the details go online and give you the link".

However, it is now November and I still have not heard from you regarding this information. Could you please now undertake to provide me with a link to these details in the report of annual expenditure? You may recall that you also assured me (after I had voiced some concern) in your letter (also dated 12 April):

"I would like to clarify that all of the works acquired in the financial year 2011/12 will be individually listed in September online, alongside the amounts for which they were acquired. By "collectively", I did not mean as an aggregated figure, but as a group of works acquired in that financial year. My apologies if I have caused confusion with the use of the word "collectively" in this instance.

Tate has made available online the amounts for works of art since 2006 and these are released in September of each year. Therefore the amount paid for the work by Ai Weiwei will be released in September of this year following the publication of the Annual Report."

After waiting patiently for over six months, I do hope that this information will now finally be made available to me, as you promised, and I look forward to your reply shortly.

Yours sincerely,

chris crossing

Ruth Findlay, Tate (Gallery)

Dear Chris Crossing

Thank you for your e-mail. My apologies for not having alerted you to
this already, but thank you for getting in touch about it. All of the
acquisitions for 2011/12 are listed in the appendices of the Annual
Report which is now online. These went online on 27 September 2012, the
date of Tate's Annual press conference when the Annual Report was
published. The Ai Weiwei work is listed on page 128 at the following
link http://www.tate.org.uk/download/file/fid...

Many thanks

Best wishes

Ruth

Ruth Findlay
Corporate Communications Manager, Tate
020 7887 4941
07813 655 406
Please note that any information sent, received or held by Tate may be
disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act 2000

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