Lovin’ the Google Art Project

Just to suggest you the new project by Google: The Art project (http://www.googleartproject.com/)

I think that it is an interesting opportunity for future visitors of museums who want to have a sneek peek of what they will see in person but also a great way to make the most important and famous museums of the world available to everybody no matter the distances.

But now the question is: how museums could “use” this tool for their purposes? How could they take profit from this project?

So far, it is like a big interactive tour around museums rooms with the chance to zoom on a specific piece of art, but I think that it could be an useful instrument also for smaller museums that would like to advertise themselves and to make people aware of the quality of their collection!

In fact, I believe that this initiative could be even more important for those museums that don’t have enough money for big ad campaigns or for stunning interactive websites but that believe in their collection and activities and would like to make them available to the widest public.

I hope that this project could have a long joyful life and become bigger and bigger.

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Updates! Also V&A among franchising museums!

I just read an article on The Guardian (you can find something interesting here too).

Did you hear about Victoria and Albert Museum‘s expansion? Quite interesting, isn’t it? The institution is going to be part of the hypermuseums club, by trying to open a new branch in Scotland….

The City of Dundee is expected to become a new Bilbao, as all the cities that tried to replicate the spanish case history hoped to. “Dundee’s supporters, including the city’s Labour and Scottish National party MPs, believe it would help drive the city’s economic regeneration“, said the journalist. Sounds familiar?!?!

But the real problem, as we’re always saying, is: what is the strategic project behind this expansion? What is the museum’s ambition?

“V&A at Dundee will be Scotland’s leading centre for design, housed in a stunning new building at the heart of Dundee’s waterfront. It will showcase Scottish design talent and provide a venue for the V&A’s major international touring exhibitions”, said the museum.

Take a look at the partners: “V&A at Dundee is being delivered by Dundee Design Ltd. – a partnership between the V&A, the University of Dundee, the University of Abertay Dundee, Dundee City Council and Scottish Enterprise“.

But what is the main theme about the project? The architecture of course. If the description of the museum’s mission and vision took just a couple of lines to be described, the most interesting subject seems to be which architecture firm is going to win the competition, as you can see in the description of the project.

And what about the raising of the £45m needed to complete the site? They are tough to find but it seems to be a minor topic…

“The future of the Dundee plan hinges on whether the Scottish government will support it when the budget is fixed. The project needs £15m from the devolved government and similar amounts from European and lottery funds, and from private sector donors”. So, even if there no assurance on the funding the name of the architects is already known…  Isn’t it like starting from the end?

In fact, Lesley Knox, chair of the project board, confirmed it was still far from clear whether the money would be available given the heavy public spending cuts. “Everybody has we’ve made compelling case, but it’s tough times and therefore until the decision is made, we can’t prejudge that,” she said. “All I can say is we’ve worked our tails off to make sure we’ve made our case, and the feedback has been positive.”

The reader can make his own conclusions about this sentence…

And what about that residual thing called the collection???

“The V&A in Dundee will not house a permanent V&A collection and the parent museum will not meet any of Dundee’s costs. But it has signed a 20-year deal to send two or three travelling exhibitions there each year.”

Is this all about? A stunning architectural spot for temporary exhibition still without sufficient financial cover? Is there any other solution???

We’re dead, said the director!

Did you want an example of what I wrote in my past posts? Here it is!

As reported by Judith H. Dobrzynski’s blog (http://www.artsjournal.com/realcleararts/2010/06/fayetteville-closure.html) another museum is going to close, a museum that no more than three years ago was planning to expand… Doesn’t it sound familiar? This time it’s the Fayetteville Museum of Art, in North Carolina.

They closed last month with a $500,000 debt and no cash for the payroll.

As reported by the FayObserver (http://fayobserver.com/articles/2010/05/30/1000551?sac=Home): “The sudden closure leaves Fayetteville, with about 207,000 residents, as the only major city in North Carolina without an art museum, although smaller art galleries are open elsewhere in the city”.

And what is it the reason, according to the museums? “An unsuccessful fundraising campaign, along with politics, shaky museum finances and the recession ultimately led to the board’s May 19 announcement to close and dismiss the staff”.

But this situation is even stranger if we consider what they were planning in 2007: “Museum officials unveiled an ambitious plan to raise $15million to build a nine-story white tower at Festival Park and establish an endowment to help operate it. It had long been their desire to relocate to the city center – to a more visible location in a bigger building”.

But now, because of serious financial problems accumulated during these last three years, the museum finally closed…

This it’s going to be the end of more than one museum if no one will find an alternative to promote and make museums grow in a sustainable way…

Eli Broad listened to me!

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-broad-leader-20100608,0,1180844.story

Just to keep you updated about the new Eli Broad Museum in LA (about which I already written on a previous post.

He seems to have chosen Diller&Scofidio: those I suggested to him! Of course he has a terrific taste! It’s just unofficial and he could change his mind but I think this is quite interesting as well.

“The sources cautioned that Broad could still change his mind and pursue a design by one of the other architects, especially if a detailed cost analysis began to suggest that the Diller Scofidio plan would be more expensive to build than first thought. Broad also is waiting for approvals from city and county bodies to lease the Bunker Hill site for $1 per year for 99 years. The site is owned by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency. Officially, in fact, Broad has said that a property in Santa Monica’s civic center is still an option as a site for the museum and that he will not make a decision on either the location or an architect until later this month, at the earliest.”

We’ll see how it’s going to end!

Sounds familiar?

Checking my e-mails I just opened the new Arts Management Network issue and I was quite surprised by the editorial by Dirk Heinze.

I’d like to report a few paragraphs in order to make it clear that the main problem for future museums is, of course, sustainable growth.

“… The recent developments in the economic and financial crisis have undoubtedly raised concern in the cultural sector… And, while here in Europe the mail question has been whether government funding for the arts should be pulled back, American cultural institutions have had it significantly more difficult. Private donors and patrons were forced to suddenly pull back with their grants, with funding down 5.7% in 2008 in comparison to 2007. However, despite this setback philanthropy has become increasingly popular and individual donors are trying harder to find ways to support individual causes financially. In the past decade, both churches and universities were ranked first in the amount of money they received from private donors. The greatest increase in support was by organizations offering direct support, either in the form of job opportunities or in micro-credits. Lead by the Baby Boomers, there has been a fundamental shift in the image of donors, with the focus shifting away from growthoriented investments over to income-generating investments in the humanitarian and ecological sector.
As the younger generations X and Y become more socially aware as well, one starts to wonder what cultural institutions can, in light of this shift, expect from donors. One thing does seem to be clear: the change is moving away from dissociated patrons and management over to business-oriented companies and individuals willing to support a cause. The task is more than merely ‘representing’ a cause but the ability of the individual donor to do something. New donors want to tackle issues hands-on and actively partake in problem solving. They also expect more ‘inclusiveness’ from cultural institutions in order to have more freedom and say about specific issues. At any rate, this connection also provides cultural institutions the possibility to strengthen their ties with local communities.”

If you’d like more information about Arts Management Network, just go visit their website with many interesting articles.

http://www.artsmanagement.net/

Other blogs…

Just found an interesting post on Museums Now’s blog titled “For love not for money” and I think it can be quite focused on what I already talked about in my previous posts.

http://museums-now.blogspot.com/2010/06/for-love-nor-money.html

Here’s a list of some initiatives that could be considered as an alternative to new museums buildings as the only solution to go over the crisis.

The most interesting to me are:

“1. In Columbus Ohio arts organizations have begun outsourcing PR to a centralized group that specializes in arts management.  This is entirely voluntary – groups like the symphony have cut back so far on operations that they can no longer effectively market, raise money, or handle direct advertising.  Their program is already cut to the bone so there is a need for back office help to rebuild. The balancing act here is to enable arts organizations to focus on their programs – which only they can design and produce – while not completely divorcing them from management functions that are less unique.

2. Two cities we know of are working on a new kind of donor circle to introduce new donors to the experience of giving to arts and culture.  Part of the issue in these communities is that the existing donor pool is tired.  At the same time, younger residents with money do not have a tradition of philanthropy.  Getting these folks together in a giving circle creates a social context for donations. The group can challenge one another, and others in the community (perhaps their parents?!) to support a cause they have adopted.  Working with peers is fun and motivates participation.”

The other examples are in my opinion a little bit more ordinary, but still effective as they are thought to raise money and interest.

Take a look to another Museums Now’s post, written by a small museum director, that seems quite aware of the actual situation and that tries to face the challenges of these days…

http://museums-now.blogspot.com/2010/05/planning-in-perfect-storm.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Museums-Now+%28Museums+Now%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

Yes Yes another one! Herzog&DeMeuron this time!

Just read this article on artinfo. http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/34797/miami-art-museum-secures-100-million-for-new-building

The Miami Art Museum is goign to build a new building and has secured about $100 million for the $220 million structure by swiss architects Herzog&DeMeuron. (Don’t they sound familiar? Considering that these king of projects are made by the same 8/10 international archistars… That’s what I call international style: same kind of buildings all around the world with no local differences…)

As you can see it’s exactly the same problem as for the “new” Whitney. They’re going to build a new site (even if in these troubled times, when many museums are closing or cutting drastically their budget) and why that? Just to try to face this difficult situation by becoming bigger and brighter!

The museum earned access to $100 million in much-needed county bonds toward the project. The Miami-Dade County manager approved the funding after the museum announced that it had secured the $30 million in private pledges required to open the public coffers.

It is quite interesting to point out that just last year the MAM director Tedd Riley resigned, according to him, because it was the perfect moment to leave: “The design is on target, and we have a good team in place in terms of the project managers.” The fact that the museums world was shaked by a huge financial crisis didn’t seem to influence the decision… but can we trust this statement?

Anyway, the real news is that there’s goign to be a new museum in Miami and not just a simple building but a wornderful piece of architecture by the swiss duo, who is already planning the construction of another facility in Miami: 1111 Lincoln Road, an extravagantly inventive garage complex that offers a “unique shopping, dining, residential and parking experience”.

So here we come at the same point: is it possible for museums to find the solution of their financial and management problems by creating new magnificent buildings that they can finally not afford? In fact, were are they going to find the $90 million missing? And what about investing all this money in a long–term strategic plan of exhibitions, collection enhancement, education facilities, reasearch activities??? These are issues to be considered!

Q.E.D. Quod Erat Demonstrandum!

Just to confirm my previous post about public museums and private collectors, here an article taken from The Art Newspaper on this specific topic, with some big numbers and some bigger names…

http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Recovery-after-annus-horribilis/20186

Even if words speak for themselves, I’d like to point out some important aspects of this article and its relationships with my post, in order to make even more clear the recent museums financial situation and the connections between money and cultural growth in museums.

“A year ago, museum directors were slashing operating budgets as the value of endowments fell by at least 15%. The results: cancelled exhibitions, redundancy notices and pay freezes for those who survived (a few directors voluntarily cut their own salaries). Even the wealthiest museum was affected. The J. Paul Getty Trust was forced to make a 24% cut in its annual budge and lay off 97 members of staff, as the value of its endowment shrank to $4.4bn in June 2009, from $5.9bn a year before, a fall of 25%.”

So: a cultural “corporation” such as the Getty fired almost one houndred people and cut its budget by a quarter in 2009! And this is just taken as a significant example of what happened to museums last year (even private institutions).

And here’s an East Coast institution, one of the most famous. The Met: “Thomas Campbell’s first year as the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, was a baptism of fire. Its operating deficit leapt to $8.4m in 2008/9, following a deficit of $1.9m the previous year. This was despite a cut in its general operating costs by nearly $6m. The museum laid off 71 people, while 97 others took early retirement. With commercial staff, a total of 357 posts were axed—14% of the workforce—saving the museum $10m.The museum’s latest annual report describes last year as “the most challenging fundraising environment in decades”. Last year, half of the Met’s gala benefit events held at the worst possible time to raise money, spring 2009, but the museum reports that income from fall 2009 and spring 2010 events has rebounded to pre-recession levels. Gross benefit event revenues received last year fell 17% over the previous year.”

And now take a look at this… Just to complete what I was talking about on my previous post!

“The near-death experience of MoCA, Los Angeles, dominated the headlines in early 2009. It was rescued by philanthropist and founding chairman Eli Broad, who injected $30m. No saviour emerged in time to save California’s Claremont Museum of Art and the Fresno Metropolitan Museum from closing in the past two months”.

And so on with many others examples of museums facins the challenges of these last two years and talking about how they feel positive about future…

But it’s really believable to stay confident affter all these troubles? And, most of all, how can we really think to solve the situation and to protect museums from another episode like this if the constant risk is to focus on immediate revenues and not on a long-term strategy of growth and sustainability? We should be aware of that!

It’s quite clear that they’re solution to that it’s still become bigger in size, as my next post about the Miami Art Museum will show you!

Collectors Museums? Not so good…

Many american museums are facing big financial troubles in the last period, but these problems doesn’t seem to affect private collectors aiming to promote their arts pieces through the creation of new exhibition buildings. Many of them, in fact, are no longer satisfied by loaing part of their works to public museums od temporary exhibitions around the world, and are trying to raise the cultural – and, most of all, the economic – value of their collection opening new sites! THE COLLECTOR, Mr. Eli Broad, in particular is about to land on the L.A. cultural landscape with an amazing and breathtaking architectural building.

But by who?

According to the Los Angeles Times on May, 25th “the competition was loaded from the start with high-profile firms. Of the six architects asked to present preliminary designs last week for the site on the corner of Grand Avenue and 2nd Street, four are winners of the Pritzker Prize, the field’s most prestigious award. They include Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and his firm Office for Metropolitan Architecture; Swiss pair Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron; French architect Christian de Portzamparc; and Japanese duo Ryue Nishizawa and Kazuyo Sejima, whose Tokyo firm, SANAA, is the winner of this year’s Pritzker. The other firms asked to take part are New York-based Diller, Scofidio & Renfro, designers of the 2006 Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, among other projects, and London’s Foreign Office Architects. According to a source with knowledge of the competition – who asked not to be named, citing the confidentiality of the process – a group of architectural advisors organized by Broad last Wednesday narrowed the six firms to two finalists. They are Koolhaas and Diller, Scofidio & Renfro. Broad has said he wants to move quickly on the museum; assuming he can win the needed site approvals without significant delays, he hopes to open its doors by 2012 or 2013″.

And so, here we come again: public museums all around the world are facing one of the worst financial crisis of their history but, as looking at private collectors, there’s going to be more wonderful archispots to be seen all around the world. So, the new future competitors for museums are going to be private collectors exhibition buildings???

And the question, of course, is: what do public museums want to do in order to face this new “attack”? This is going to be the most important question to be answered for museums willing not to close.

P.S. Personal Note: I’d suggest to Mr. Broad to pick up Scofidio&Renfro, love them! Here’s a pic of their Museu da Imagem e do Som in Rio de Janeiro.


New museums? Yes, but can we leave the old ones behind??

I just read an article by Carol Vogel on the New York Times.

The Whitney Museum finally decided to build a new building in downtown NY, just next to the High Line, in the Meatpacking District. To make this possible, the board, that voted anonimously, also decided to sell some brownstones near the original building on Madison Avenue. And this, if possible, it’s the most interesting aspect of this event; as she wrote: “Without room to grow uptown, and without the income necessary to run two museums, the Whitney now faces the question of what to do with the Breuer building — which may end up being shared, at least temporarily, by another institution, perhaps the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

So, here it is the real problem: even if the museum doesn’t have neither the money to grow where it is now nor the possibility to manage two museums at the same time they just decided to build a new one! And where? In what Leonard A. Lauder, chairman emeritus and benefactor of the Whitney, calls “a new city, a new nation”. So, “why shouldn’t the Whitney be the museum of record there?”.

And that’s the point: now it’s the time when  museums are no longer the places to go for visitors and tourists and a source of urban regeneration and growth, but they have become the followers of the trends, they just move where they believe there’s going to be the new cultural, economic and social centre of a town, in this case the Downtown Meatpacking district, full of galleries, showrooms, clubs and, of course, the so stylish High Line.

Lauder continued: “there is no better time to build than now, with construction costs and interest rates at an all-time low. There is a new generation of people who have come on the board who are not rooted to the past,” Mr. Lauder said. “It would be unfair for someone like me who grew up near the Whitney to believe it should stay there.”

But there’s much more besides that. In fact, since in 2008 the benefactor had decided to give a $131 donation to the museum with the stipulation that the building on Mad Av could not be sold, here comes the problem of what to do with it and how to make it financially sustainable. And it is at this point the the Met comes on stage, promoting a partnership with the Whitney in order to use it as a “secondary” exhibition space for the Met!

“The timing could work particularly well for the Met. The partnership would not take place until the Whitney’s new museum was completed in 2015, at which point the Met could embark on a much-needed renovation of its galleries of modern and contemporary art. Having a space to temporarily house those galleries just a few blocks away would be ideal, Mr. Campbell (Met’s director) said. “No one should take away the notion that we are off-loading our modern or contemporary collections to another site,” Mr. Campbell said. “On the contrary, they are a vital part of a story the Met tells.” He added that a collaboration between the two museums could also result in some exciting institutional cross-pollination.”

But the real question is: where is the Whitney going to find the money to do that?

And here’s the solution as proposed by the board: “Certainly such an alliance would lighten the Whitney’s financial burden. So far the board has raised about $372 million toward the downtown project, which it estimates will cost $680 million, a figure that includes construction and endowment. The sale of the brownstones and the annex building is expected to raise about $100 million more.”

And what about the other $200 million?.

“Last year, the museum signed a contract with the city’s Economic Development Corporation to buy the city-owned site, at the entrance to the High Line, the abandoned elevated railway line that had just been converted into a park. The museum agreed to pay $18 million, about half the appraised value of the property. Since then the Whitney has been making nonrefundable monthly payments of $50,000, credited toward the purchase price, to continue until the closing date, which has yet to be determined. The city has allocated $55 million toward the downtown building.”

That’s the problem: museums are now looking at their future trying to imagine where to find the money to create new buildings and the main solution found so far is to raise money by partly “selling” their old buildings, but is it the only solution? Can’t we find different strategic solutions to this difficult situation?