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Last Updated: Monday, 14 November 2005, 13:59 GMT
Tate admits Ofili purchase error
Chris Ofili and elephants
British artist Ofili uses elephant dung in his paintings
The Tate Gallery has admitted it made a "technical error" in seeking money from the National Art Collection Fund to buy a work by one of its own trustees.

The Tate did not tell the fund it had already committed itself to purchasing The Upper Room by Chris Ofili when it made its application in November 2004.

Last month Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota wrote a letter to the body offering to repay its 75,000 grant.

However, the fund's board of trustees decided the grant should stand.

The fund does not usually offer money for artworks which a gallery has already made a commitment to buy.

"The board acknowledged it was a genuine mistake," said a spokeswoman for the organisation.


Ofili's work, on display at Tate Britain until May 2006, comprises 13 paintings of rhesus monkeys displayed on elephant dung supports.

The Tate contributed 120,000 towards the 600,000 purchase price, raising the outstanding amount through donations.

The Upper Room by Chris Ofili
The Upper Room comprises 13 paintings of rhesus monkeys
According to the Tate, Mr Ofili had no say in the decision to buy his work - described by the Daily Telegraph's art critic Richard Dorment as "one of the most important works of British art painted in the last 25 years".

"He exempted himself from all the meetings," said a gallery spokeswoman.

The National Art Collection Fund has also denied any conflict of interest involving its chairman David Verey, a former Tate chairman and trustee.

A spokeswoman for the fund told the BBC News website that Mr Verey did not attend any meeting at which Ofili's work was discussed.

Ofili, who first exhibited The Upper Room in 2002, won the Turner Prize in 1998.

Q&A: Sir Nicholas Serota
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