Rewilding the white cube: the role of art museums in tackling the climate emergency

A contribution from Frances Morris

Curator, author, broadcaster and currently Director Emerita of the Tate Modern in London.

Lecture as part of the symposium
Yesterday. Today! Tomorrow?
From the museum of late modernism, its history and its future, monument protection, the “third place” or climate box versus climate crisis.
Part III, October 27 + 28, 2023
Climate box versus climate crisis. Fit for the future: the climate-neutral museum

Außenansicht des Tate Modern Museum bei nacht. Links ist die schlanke Fußgängerbrücke Millennium Bridge zu sehen. Vor dem beleuchteten Museum rakt eine Säule in den Himme, auf ihr steht ,If Not Now Then When.
Jenny Holzer, Power to Change, October 2021, Photo: Tate Modern
A very high, shaft-like room. The entire floor is covered by a white, paintable surface on which countless drawings can be seen. People can be seen adding drawings all over the room. Large sheets of white fabric covered with splashes of paint hang from the ceiling.
Uniqlo Tate Play Mega Please Draw Freely, July - August 2021, Photo: Tate Modern

Rewilding the white cube: the role of art museums in addressing climate emergency

In 2019 Tate publicly committed to respond to the climate and ecological emergency and pledged to do so by examining our estates, operations, and programmes, within the framework of the UN’s sustainability goals: Agenda 2030.
This commitment has fostered a determination to amplify the voices of artists and our communities, to inspire environmental change beyond the museum, and to make our contribution ambitious, effective, and visible.
Acknowledging the museum’s responsibility to people and planet – in a world facing multiple crises – is forcing us to examine many of our unquestioned values and conventions including our understanding of art history, our commitment towards collecting and our approach to conserving. This lecture will explore the concept of ‘re-wilding’ to help reconsider the model of the museum for a regenerative and sustainable future.

You can watch the recording of the entire talk here.

A white middle-aged woman is sitting on a garden bench amidst tall green bushes. She laughs, has short white hair, wears a denim shirt, white T-shirt and black pants.
Frances Morris, photo: Samia Meah

Curator, writer, broadcaster and currently Director Emerita at the Tate Modern

Frances Morris became Director Emerita at the Tate Modern, after leading the institution as Director for 7 years. Frances has made many exhibitions, publications, and public programmes including acclaimed retrospectives of Louise Bourgeois, Yayoi Kusama, and Agnes Martin, most recently co-curating Hilma Af Klint & Piet Mondrian: Forms of Life. As Director of Collections, International Art from 2006 to 2016 Frances led the transformation of Tate’s International Collection, strategically broadening and diversifying its international reach and representation, as well as bringing photography, moving image and live art into the institution for the first time through acquisitions, displays and exhibitions. Since 2019, Frances has been championing Tate’s responses to the climate and environmental crisis, exploring how cultural institutions can best respond and adapt to the complex planetary and societal impacts of the crisis. As Board member of CIMAM Frances was the founding chair of Cimam’s Sustainability Working Group until November 2022.

Further blog posts related to the architecture symposium

The symposium is sponsored and supported by:

Black and white logo, the name of the institution flush left and the coat of arms of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia flush right.
Black and white logo, a black rectangle in which the name of the organization is written in capital letters.
Foundation logo, in green is written on the left in capital letters B & A with a circle around it. To the right is the foundation name written out in capital letters.


The poster advertising the architecture symposium with writing in the bottom left corner: Part 3, September 27 + 28.