Throughout from visual art institutions in London and
June 7, 2019
Throughout this analysis, I will be setting modern and
less modern ideologies of the museum and gallery sector by examining business
models from visual art institutions in London and how their status and values
have shifted due to emergent challenges such as globalisation and adaptation to
different communication tools.
By drawing from Foucault’s idea of an enlightenment
institution through Krauss text
of ‘the late capitalist museum’ to Reem Kelani’s
Kickstarter campaign that turned to
a recording, then a concert in Richmix, this paper is
aiming to clarify what the sector
is all about and what ideologies led museums and
galleries to this stage and what
the current stage is exactly at all.
The first part of the paper reflects on definitions by
the academy and gives an overall view of how vision and mission statements
evolved within these institutions. In order to fully analyse the sector, the
first part of the writing describes how the notion of public ownership altered
according to the needs of the economy and society.
The second part argues the direction towards a more
radical model of the museum is right and what kind of solutions the sector has
been provided to issues that are related to funding and sponsorship, policy,
diversity, levels and types of employment and ownership.
Introduction – Getting and Spending
In the 90s’ George Goldner, curator of the J. Paul Getty
Museum said, “There will be some people who will want to turn the museum
into a dealership”. Two decades later spending a whole afternoon in the
Victoria and Albert Museum, wondering around the building with a cup of
coffee in our hand is one of the greatest things that London can offer
on a Sunday. Certainly, there is a more radical model taking a shape in
the world of visual art institutions: they are more experimental, less architecturally
determined, more politicized engagement with our historical moment, and
make all the effort to keep their already existing audience and attract many
From Foucault, we learned that a museum is the worst sort
of Enlightenment tendencies to totalize, categorize and control the world.
According to his writing, museum is an institution whose power to collect and
display objects is a function of capitalism and imperialism, and whose power to
form individuals within an institutionally controlled and publicly monitored
Ever since, this clearly negative and kind of disturbing
essay was published, museums have varied enormously in many ways – still very
much mired in history, also in bureaucracy.
However, a good case in point towards positive changes is
that since then there are
variety of ‘art spaces’ opened their doors –if there are
doors at all-, pop-up galleries or multifunctional venues (e.g.: gallery/print
studio) got supported and made London’s art scene more vivid. And institutions
with long histories have ‘rebranded’ their objectives and visual statements
just to keep up with their audience’s needs.
Presumably, due to the unsettling economy to have the
government as the only support would be impossible for all of these art
institutions. That can be the reason behind the fact that institutions turned
to more like “market-driven- operations” and the income from the audience and
sponsors is as essential as to get funded by the government.
The aim of this study is to identify the museum and
gallery sector, to explore their business models and the way they have been
developed and what the evidences are of market failure.
The sector, its the definition and the public ownership
In order to understand what visual art institutions are,
first it is substantial to define and recognize the distinctions between museum
and gallery, in particular between art institutions in London.
Even though, this essay is not necessary aiming to
analyse contemporary art institutions, it would be interesting to point out the
link between the sector itself and contemporary art, as well as, to find out
how internationalism effected on institutions that objective is to celebrate
In ancient India, chitrashalas -painting
galleries- were a mean of education as well as a source of enjoyment, the
paintings, sculptures, and performances were all providing lessons in history,
religion, and art; they were and are now reflecting the culture and the
society; and encourage the viewers to debate and to raise questions.
Galleries and museums are two different types of
entities, and between them the primary difference is that while someone goes to
an art museum to view art, the other one goes to an art gallery to view art,
from the perspective of purchasing the art.
Museums can be public or private, but what distinguishes
a museum is the ownership of a collection and most commonly display paintings
and art objects while galleries often host artistic activates, such as concerts
or poetry reading. Galleries, alike museums, can be public and private and it
is divided by their orientation.
Public museums and galleries are defined as institutions
with permanent collections, governed by elected or appointed board, and major
part of their supports are provided by parliamentary appropriation. They exist
for the stewardship of its collection and for the education of the public. On
the other hand, private museums and galleries exist in a civic capacity based
on public trust, whose operating budget and endowment were established without
There are single-donor visual art institutions,
dominantly galleries, these are founded by a single private collector and can
have an independent board of trustees, or been governed by the board that
oversees its foundation. They can also have non-profit status and become public
just like Somerset House did.
By their cultural aspect, these art institutions have
been designed with a cultural purpose or been subject to political
intervention, especially national galleries and museum whose mission is to
address the feelings of nationalism.
provide multiple social benefits –besides some of them propagate fashion and
conformity-, multiply goals are inherent in their mission.
The use of the word ‘mission’ is appropriate for the
Whitechapel Gallery as it was part of a Christian Socialist notion of social
reform that saw aesthetics, in line with the ideas of art critic John Ruskin,
as a way to improve people’s lives and their moral universe. It was founded in
1901 and developed out of a twenty year of ‘Whitechapel Picture Exhibition’
with the belief of “there can be no real unity as long as people in different
parts of a city are prevented from admiring the same things”.
As part of a growing internationalism in more than
hundred years the gallery became a touchstone for contemporary art in London
and ever since breakdown the bias thoughts of art history and challenge the ‘normal’.
The sector and the funding
The last twenty years have seen a huge
diversification of museums as a category, and the most significant change has
been the increasing dependence on donations and corporate sponsorship as governments
gradually withdraw public funding from culture in the name of ‘austerity’.
The government grants for the British Museum, for
example, since 1993-1994 until now from 81 percent has declined, therefore the
museum has increasingly had to turn to patrons and private sector sources including
corporations, for the support of programs.
The National Portrait Gallery quite a good example how art
institutions can face with common challenges and found ways to increase its
income from corporate sponsors, shops, restaurants, cafes, admission fee,
membership, venue rentals, by lending paintings to the public, and from private
donors – it is a long a list. With the sponsorship by BP, the National Portrait
Gallery have started running an annual
portrait award, which is a competition that everyone can
participate worldwide with a total prize fund of £74,000. Supposedly, here a
sponsorship is growing to a collaborative partnership.
The complexity of the partnership of museums and
galleries brings up questions such as “who should pay for the arts and culture?”,
“who should decide?”; and “what difference should it make?” The state of these
institutions has also been described as the hybridization of the public and
private museum as their ownership have shifted in the last years.
As the museums and galleries are operating in a
continuously changing environment
getting supported is never granted. Admittedly, funding
has an essential role in an organization’s identity, and it can influence its
mission statement, vision and long-term goals.
The sector and the audience
Museums and galleries serve diverse audiences with
distinct needs, perceptions, and expectation. As all the organisations play
different roles in London, enthusiastic visitors, members, volunteers, and the
community have a particular competence in building audience and support.
Museums may attract single-time visitors, but their main
goal is to build a long-term relationship with the visitor. They may have a
large number of visitors yet find it difficult to convert them into regular
members. Visitors are the lifeblood and they contribute income. They come to
learn and hope for surprise and excitement as they escape temporarily from
their predictable everyday lives.
The sector is concerned about engaging eight types of
consumers. They seek to attract new visitors; convert single time visitors into
members; retain existing members; building diverse audience with an emphasis on
attracting young adults and ethnic groups; convert members to donors; enlist
volunteers; and attract tourist.
By attracting a diverse audience Tate gave a good example
by being the pioneer of reaching out at young people. Tate Britain and Tate
Modern, the two galleries in London, opened in 2000 and now attract over 6.5
million visitors a year. Tate has made a gallery-wide decision to target
younger visitors with a variety of effective strategies. Creating programs by
young people for young people and changing the traditional communication tools
to digital ones by developing their social media presence, keeping their
website user-friendly and updated all led Tate to reposition galleries as interesting
places to be, and young people, the audience of the future became extremely important
to Tate. More than a quarter of visitors to its four galleries are under twenty-four
The sector and human resources
The museum and gallery’s human resources –the board,
director, staff, and volunteers- are major component of marketing and strategy.
Building a committed museum and gallery boards, senior management, and governance
experts all require strategic planning and a long-term investment of time and
energy. Boards function in a variety of ways depending on the characteristics
of given museum, its history, the type of community it serves, its scale, and
related actors. Museum board members represent a vital link to the environment.
They are likely to be contact with a wide range of constituencies and publics
whose support is
essential to a museum.
However, in 2015 the National Gallery’s management have
thought differently. And to cut down the gallery’s expenses they decided to
replace them by security guard. The result was a more than 2-month-long strike,
have shut down most of the National Gallery and made the public concerned.
The sector and the future
Museums and galleries are vital institutions that define,
record, and sustain civilisation. Without them, would be hard for the people to
understand their past and cope with its present. These institutions differ in a
number of aspects yet confront common challenges. In responding to an intricate
environment wherein museums and galleries compete for the visitors they have become
more complex. By developing their online presence museums and galleries an
audience that is enormous in size and can make a big impact on people habit in
engaging with art. This analysis aimed to point out these challenges and by
examples from London, showing ways how art institutions can face with them.