The Tate is outsourcing biography-writing to Wikipedia, raising fears about errors and misspellings.
The Tate is one of London’s most important constellations of art institutions, but in recent years it’s been lacking the resources to write biographies for all the artists in its vast collection. So it turned to Wikipedia to pick up the slack, forming a partnership with one of the internet’s go-to educational resources in order to fill out the copy.
But an investigation by The Art Newspaper reveals that Wikipedia’s crowdsourced entries often include factual errors or spelling mistakes that can make their way to Tate’s official site. The art historian Bendor Grosvenor pointed out that a Tate biography on Anthony van Dyck says that the painter was the inspiration for the “Van Dyke [sic] beard” and The Art Newspaper claimed that other entries were similarly marred by mistakes.
A Tate spokesperson explained that it has commissioned its art historians to write over 100 biographies, including those on J. M. W. Turner and Francis Bacon. But it doesn’t have “the resources to create biographies for every individual,” and as a result artists such as Lucian Freud, Damien Hirst, and David Hockney have not received bespoke biographies. Despite the inaccuracies spotted so far, the spokesperson maintains that Wikipedia is “the most up to date and reliable biography possible within the constraints of our resources.”