Sunday, August 9, 2009

"It is the people at the top who deserve the most opprobrium."

Artnet's Ben Davis has just written The Museum Bubble, a detailed analysis on the financial troubles faced by museums and art institutions. Davis' scathing analysis points the finger at the "art bureaucrats at the top, those pious guardians of our nonprofit castles of culture."

1 comment:

Mark White said...

Sadly, Ben Davis follows the lead of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ "A Portrait of the Visual Arts," in not counting the value of the artwork itself in finding that in 2000 the largest 20 percent of all art museums controlled 98 percent of the assets in the nonprofit visual arts sector. If you ignore the value of the artwork itself, you don't realize that many art museums of all sizes are stunningly wealthy institutions.

If you do focus on the total wealth these institutions control, "the art bureaucrats at the top, those pious guardians of our nonprofit castles of culture ...deserve our scorn right now..." all the more for letting "the personnel who do the unglamorous day-to-day stuff that makes these places run" get "hardest hit" and for first cutting "variable costs, which are the programming costs." Deaccession doesn't let a museum have its Monet and money, too, even when it needs the money quite as badly as those museums Davis points out. So, the museum profession desperately needs to pursue innovations that mobilize the collection's financial value without jeopardizing, as deaccessioning does, its cultural value. The time for leaders is right now.