The Public and the Private: A New Mix in the World of Art Galleries

Inadequate security due to budget-cutting at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris had led to the spectacular coup in May when five extremely valuable yet uninsured paintings were stolen.

While the public galleries struggle with budget cuts and dwindling sponsorship money, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote on June 6, “private museums are enjoying a boom. Millionaire François Pinault, who owns brands like Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, is showing his gigantic art collection at two opulent private museums in Venice.… Exhibiting your art collection at your own museum is becoming the ultimate status symbol.… The art boom of recent years has produced a new generation of smaller collectors and amateurs.”

No doubt the opulently endowed private galleries can afford adequate insurance and security, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung concludes, “If public galleries paid them more attention they could become what they once were: places where society forms a picture of itself.”

In concrete terms this must mean that, after pooling resources for security and insurance, the public galleries should make it attractive to the millionaire-collectors to exhibit their treasures in their spaces. This would follow the public-private mix that has become customary on North American campuses, far more so than in Europe.

That may be excellent advice.


2 responses to “The Public and the Private: A New Mix in the World of Art Galleries

  1. robert russel

    Thanks to globalization, the wealthy are proliferating, and growing exceedingly rich. On the other hand, governments are facing huge deficits and are less able to sustain our cultural institutions, and pleading poor.

    As the hugely wealthy seek to distinguish themselves from everyday billionaires, Monsieur Pineau, a king of the luxury trade, is creating a private public gallery. Is this a trend? An exemplary act? Or simply good PR.

    A century ago, in 1901, when Andrew Carnegie sold his steel company (the world’s largest industrial enterprise at the time) to JP Morgan, he became the world’s richest man. According to Forbes and Wikipedia, he was worth 297 billion in 2007 dollars. That’s more than Slim, Gates, Buffet, and Jobs together.

    He too moved into public territory, creating a huge chain of libraries, called Mechanics’ Institutes, where workers could uppull their mental bootstraps and rise from the economic mud as he himself once did.

    But It was more than pure philanthropy. Workers of that time remember that Pinkerton men, hired by Carnegie Steel to break the Homestead strike of ’92, killed seven of their brothers.

    Is there something you’re not telling us?

    • Yes, there is. I can’t tell you anything about François Pinault because I know nothing other than that he is a millionaire and owns Gucci, etc. Let us assume that, in the spirit of Bill Gates and others, having made a fortune, he can now afford to be public spirited in the world of art and make common cause with the shrinking public sector in some fashion, as the German papers suggests.