Art for rent

August 8 2014

Image of Art for rent

Picture: MFA Boston

There's an interesting article in the Boston Globe about the practice of museums effectively renting out paintings. Technically, the pictures are just loaned to exhibitions in faraway places like Japan - but there are hefty facilitating fees attached. The Globe article looks in particular at how the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston deals with its fee-paying loans, which are said to bring in about $5m a year, and which appear to leave some of the museum's better known works, like Renoir's Dance at Bougival (above), being repeatedly out on loan for long periods.

The article cites Metropolitan Museum Director Thomas Campbell saying:

“Lending exhibitions for fees is categorically not part of our business model,” said Thomas Campbell, the director of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. He listed five exceptions to this policy since 2009, each one a traveling exhibition that brought in fees. All either coincided with the closure of a gallery for renovations or had some other one-off strategic purpose.

The Met, Campbell said, does not exploit such shows “to underwrite our expenses or operating costs. We don’t lend to or organize exhibitions through companies like Linea d’Ombra or other for-profit organizations.” [...]

Campbell, who noted that “there is certainly more discussion of [loans for fees] in the industry” of late, said he is concerned in part because the Met organizes more than 30 exhibitions a year. “We depend for those exhibitions on the good will of other institutions we’re asking to lend works to us.”

His fear [...] is that as museums increasingly charge fees, there will be a “copycat process” — more and more museums will charge fees when they receive requests for loans, and it will become harder and harder to put on important shows.

In its defence, the MFA quite reasonably points out that it gets just 1% of its funding from the state, and the money has to come from somewhere... 

Notice to "Internet Explorer" Users

You are seeing this notice because you are using Internet Explorer 6.0 (or older version). IE6 is now a deprecated browser which this website no longer supports. To view the Art History News website, you can easily do so by downloading one of the following, freely available browsers:

Once you have upgraded your browser, you can return to this page using the new application, whereupon this notice will have been replaced by the full website and its content.