This week on www.nytimes.com an article was published explaining the recent pressure art galleries are feeling to fund museum shows in which their artists are exhibited. Sited as a combination of an “exploding art market” and “diminishing corporate/private donations” nonprofit museums are relying heavily on commercial art galleries for funding. It’s an estimated $5,000 – $200,000 per show.
What does this mean for the art world?
In the last 8 years an overwhelming percent of all museum shows have been put on by the top five art galleries in the US. These galleries have the funding and financial backing to pay for their art to be “seen” in the expensive museum settings. These findings “raise questions about the growing influence of a small number of galleries in a rapidly consolidating art market,” The Art Newspaper said, “especially when they often offer logistical and financial support for exhibitions.”
Over all, dealers say they have come to accept this practice as simply another cost of doing business — like setting up shop in the mushrooming number of international art fairs (going rate: $100,000) — and part of their obligation to their artists.
“As funding sources become tougher for exhibitions, museums have an expectation that galleries will assist in identifying potential funders as well as making outright or in-kind contributions,” the dealer James Cohan said. “It’s in our artists’ best interest to support these projects.”
He added: “Gallery involvement in museum exhibitions is part of the ecosystem of the art world. The competition to get one’s artist seen in a noncommercial context like a museum or international survey is quite intense but ultimately hugely gratifying. It’s part of our job to step up to support our artists.”
The problem with this financial push in the art world, is the “money talks” epidemic. Museums will only show artists who have financial backing from galleries, thus showing art from the highest bidder, rather than the best or most unique artist.
Why is this important to galleries like CASS?
With only five major galleries doing most of the museum exhibits, the smaller and mid-sized gallery’s artists are being passed over.
“It is certainly burdensome for galleries such as myself, who work with younger artists in the career-building stage,” said the dealer Susan Inglett, who was asked by a museum she would not name for $8,000 to cover shipping on works traveling to a four-person show in the Midwest.
But “I am the first to acknowledge that museum shows certainly help build careers,” she added, “which speaks to a conflict of interest and lack of transparency on the part of museums that depend upon such support.”
For the entire article, visit www.nytimes.com and let us know your thoughts on how this could effect the art world.