.....drum roll please......
BANK OF AMERICA.
I just read this very interesting article on The New York Times about the role of corporate art collections in the current economic crisis. It seems like they are functioning as a curatorial bailout of sorts for struggling museums. Sparing their curatorial staffs with weeks of planning and inaccessible funds, these corporations -many of whom have in-house curators- have been offering ready-to-mount exhibitions with works from their collections for museums and other institutions.
My first reaction was one of horror. Corporate America strikes once again! Do these shows come armed with interest rates and re-financing options? After reading the article, however, and thinking a bit more about this, it seems like if done well, there is a lot of potential in this concept. It is clear and obvious that in the end this is all good exposure for the above mentioned corporations; but these collections hold some of the most incredible works of art in our country so why not share it! There are many struggling museums that could benefit from this, allowing them to show work they wouldn't have been able to show otherwise.
Lora S. Urbanelli, director of the Montclair Art Museum, said the [The Wyeths: Three Generations] show allowed the museum to present work it otherwise could not afford. “For us to put together a show on Wyeth would have been very expensive,” she explained, given the high cost of shipping, insurance and education materials, practically all of which Bank of America covered. The show was one of the museum’s most successful, Ms. Urbanelli said, attracting more than 80,000 visitors.
In the end, however, the only question is: Who is doing who a favor?
Are corporations helping museums cut costs and time as well as the opportunity to show artwork that is otherwise unreachable for that institution? Or are corporations using museums to give their collections legitimacy that will, in turn, enhance the value of their collection once it goes on sale?