Cash-strapped art museums across the country are turning to an unlikely source for new exhibitions: Banks. According to a story in the New York Times, Bank of America, Chase, and a number of other global entities have put together traveling art exhibits and are offering them to museums across the country.
Corporate sponsorship of art shows is nothing new, of course, but we’re talking about entire exhibits put together by banks, using works from their own collections. Traditionally, museums have two main duties: to select artwork and to display it. The banks are thus assuming one of the primary functions of museums, effectively providing the art world with a franchising model.
What do the museums get out of it? Zero shipping costs and top tier artists – an Andy Warhol here, a Robert Rauschenberg there – that they otherwise could never afford.
And the banks? Rena DeSisto, head of global arts marketing for Bank of America, told the New York Times:
“The income we have generated through increased business is superior to any income we could generate from selling the collection… Attracting even one individual client can cover the entire cost of lending a turnkey exhibition.”
The bank also benefits by “associating the bank with arts patronage and charitable giving, providing access to prospective clients in museum trustees and donors, offering opportunities for client entertainment.”
There is, however, a downside to all this for museum-goers. Exhibiting artworks increases their value, so banks are likely to choose works based on their profit potential rather than their aesthetic or historic values. (Many museums, for example, will only show corporate collections when the work has been donated.) And, after all, those non-pecuniary values are the reason most people visit museums in the first place.
And Now, an Exhibition From Our Sponsor [New York Times]