Large Mural In Restaurant Painted 100 Years Ago Deemed ‘Offensive’, Forcing Restaurant To Shut Down

Rex Whistler

There are quite a few business including restaurants that couldn’t survive lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Back in 2020, we saw multiple businesses close and never reopen because they struggled to survive when they had a greatly reduced number of customers. In most of these cases, the businesses that permanently closed did so due to financial issues.

One restaurant in London that closed in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic will never reopen for a reason that has nothing to do with financial issues. The restaurant will never reopen due to a nearly 100 year old mural on the dining room walls.

Back in 1926, Rex Whistler was commissioned by the Tate Britain museum to complete a large mural. The mural was named “The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats.” The mural was completed in 1927, and Tate Britain’s Rex Whistler restaurant opened the same year.

Decades after the mural was completed and the restaurant opened, visitors to the restaurant started complaining about the mural on the walls. They called it “offensive” and “racist” due to some of the images. For example, there are two parts of the mural that show a black boy being captured as a slave, and there are also parts of the image that depict Chinese people wearing costumes that portray them as stereotypes.

Despite any complaints, the restaurant remained open until March 2020 when it closed due to Covid-19. The restaurant never reopened, but the mural remains.

According to Tate Britain, the decision was made to permanently close the restaurant back in 2020; however, the museum has also decided that the artwork will remain in tact. The museum plans to change the purpose of the room and add additional artwork by a contemporary artist to create a conversation around racism.

According to Alex Farquharson, the Director of Tate Britain, “The mural is part of our institutional and cultural history and we must take responsibility for it, but this new approach will also enable us to reflect the values and commitments we hold today and to bring new voices and ideas to the fore.” He added, “The Rex Whistler mural presents a unique challenge. It has remained static on the walls of a restaurant for almost a century while the museum around it has constantly shifted. Tate Britain is now a place of ever changing displays and commissions, where the past and present are juxtaposed, and where art is open to all.”

Watch the video below to see for yourself what makes this mural so offensive and to learn more about how the space will be used in the future.