The story of art museums and their dependance on big financial donors continues to get more play. A couple weeks ago, we discussed the plight of art museums in Washington and Philadephia, dependant on WaMu and Wachovia respectively. Today, The New York Times adds some colour to the painiting:
Already the financial-market meltdown has diminished the endowment funds that cover museums’ day-to-day operating expenses. Lehman Brothers, for years a crucial sponsor for museums across the country, is no more. Surviving banking institutions and corporations that also have been the bedrock of exhibition support are likely to give far less or cut off gifts altogether.
Even the most beneficent of museum trustees are feeling the pinch. So are paying members, like the 115,000 signed up by MoMA who fork out anywhere from $50 (student membership) to $60,000 for their privileges. Directors and curators are thus in a holding pattern, waiting to see if year-end gifts materialise or membership revenues take a tumble.
“Caution is the word of the moment,” Mr. Lowry told The Times.
At the Brooklyn Museum, which opened a critically praised retrospective of the British artists Gilbert and George two weeks ago, officials are already fretting about a midcareer retrospective next June devoted to the British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare. So far no money has been raised for the show, said the museum’s director, Arnold L. Lehman.
Will end-of-year gifts dry up this year? Of course they will. That hardly seems debatable. Meanwhile, we suspect that several museums that charge a suggested donation, will find more and more people paying the bare minimum, like $1 for four tickets (like we used to do, when we were young). Extrapolating further, will this lead to art liquidation and a glut of museum-held paintings hitting the auction houses? Perhaps Felix can weigh in on that one.