Frances Morris, who in 2016 became the first woman to be named director of Tate Modern, will leave her role at the London institution in April 2023. She has worked at Tate since 1987, when she arrived as a curator; she was made head of displays at Tate Modern in 2000, the year the museum was founded, and became director of its international art collection in 2006. During her long tenure at the museum, she tirelessly advocated for the work of artists from the Middle East and the Asia Pacific region and was responsible for adding works by many to the collection. She was also instrumental in elevating the profile of women artists at Tate, organizing major exhibitions for artists including Louise Bourgeois, Yayoi Kusama, and Agnes Martin. Morris and colleague Ilona Blawick together conceived Tate Modern’s groundbreaking inaugural hang, which presented works in its collection arranged according to theme rather than chronology, as had been common until then.
“From championing women artists to expanding the international scope of our collection, and from realizing Tate Modern’s radical opening displays in 2000,” said Tate director Maria Balshaw and chair Roland Rudd in a joint statement, “her contribution to the organization’s trajectory over the past thirty-five years is immeasurable.”
Morris in a statement revealed that she felt that with audiences finally returning in force as the Covid-19 pandemic wanes, the time was right for her to make her exit. “Over three and a half decades later I feel privileged to have been nurtured by an institution that has transformed itself from within,” she said, “and to have contributed to an extraordinary period of growth in the contemporary art scene in the UK and across the world.” Morris, who will remain with Tate for a short time as curator emerita to assist with the leadership transition, has said she will focus on UK–based curatorial projects and a book on modernism; she will additionally explore the role of the art world as it relates to climate change.
The museum has said it will “in due course” begin a search for her replacement.