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The Tate puts the boot into Turner

9 February 2018

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

The Tate has got itself into a spot of bovver, accused of ‘cheapening’ the work of one of Britain’s greatest artists through a new merchandising arrangement. For reasons that remain mysterious, if not altogether unfathomable, the museum has granted the shoe brand  Dr. Martens permission to reproduce J.M.W. Turner’s paintings The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire and Fishermen at Sea on a pair of its signature lace-up boots.

Alas, attractive as the kicks no doubt are, Turner’s descendants are having none of it. ‘You’ve got two of Turner’s masterpieces on some bovver boots, so they’re a bit of a contradiction,’ one family member told the Sunday Times. ‘The Tate should have nothing to do with this,’ added former Glasgow Museums director Julian Spalding. ‘It’s nothing to do with increasing people’s understanding and enjoyment of Turner, which is the Tate’s mission and why the Tate is supported by public money’. Talk about putting your foot in it.

In fairness, the Tate/Doc Martens crossover is far from the most outlandish meeting between fashion and art in recent years. Online clothes retailer Redbubble, for example, currently has a neat line in leggings decorated with a Toulouse Lautrec painting. And as for Jeff Koons and Louis Vuitton slapping masterpieces (including Turner’s Ancient Rome; Agrippina Landing with the Ashes of Germanicus) on to handbags… well, the less said, the better.

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