Tate Britain’s Rex Whistler Restaurant is covered floor to ceiling in a specially commissioned mural from the 1920s titled The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats. As guests dine in this luxurious restaurant, images of child slavery surround them. The mural, created by British artist Rex Whistler, depicts white people towing Black children with chains around their necks and Chinese figures that the museum says “suggest caricature.” This is the venue that is called the “most amusing restaurant in the world” on Tate Britain’s website.
The museum has now removed that reference, along with a quote that called its wine list “a whispered, greedy little secret among the capital’s bibulous.” It’s been replaced by a new statement that says the gallery is “working to become a space that is more relevant, welcoming and inclusive for everyone…Whistler’s treatment of non-white figures reduces them to stereotypes.” The interpretation text, which has been on Tate Britain’s website since last week, acknowledges that while the painting is one of Whistler’s “most important works,” a number of scenes are “unacceptable.”
It was editorial platform The White Pube that initially drew attention to the mural’s racist imagery last week. A petition was started to demand the removal of the mural. “The fundamental point of a high class restaurant (used primarily by an older white demographic) being installed with art of this horrific nature is not being acknowledged as the harmful and hateful issue it is,” the petition reads. “[The mural] 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.”
“Tate has been open and transparent about the deeply problematic racist imagery in the Rex Whistler mural,” a Tate spokesperson said. “In the context of the mayor of London’s recently announced public realm review, we welcome further discussion about it.” The gallery has not announced any news to remove the mural yet.