Banding Together: The Case for Museums

In times of trouble, people join together to solve problems and face a common enemy.

That is the case with museums. These institutions have been faced serious government cutbacks, across the board worldwide, since the crisis of 2008. When times are tough, it seems – logical to some – culture is one of the first things to be cut back on.

As a result, museums have to start looking in new places to improve their business models and engage the public.

The first way they have innovated is social media. One only has to look at last week’s #askacurator day, now in its fourth year, to open the door for anyone on Twitter to ask a question to the museum’s top curators. The event is a great success, trending worldwide and bringing very interesting questions to the fore. Organiser Mar Dixon, a Brit, is a great proponent of social for museums, speaking at various events and consulting with many institutions on how to be more engaging through these means.

Image courtesy of Museumnext

Events are the second way that museums are banding together. I don’t mean having events at their institutions – this is a normal activity and has always been there. More and more events have popped up for museums to discuss trends in their industry and think of new ideas with each other. For example, the Collections Trust hosts an Openculture event, now in its third year, to discuss the trends in digitisation and collections, Museumnext has become a go-to place to learn about the newest developments in museum culture, and “We are Museums” where Marta went in June is another initiative to bring the industry together to brainstorm and learn.

The last event, which is starting tomorrow and is in its first year, is the International Commission for Exhibition Exchange – the ICEE, a subdivision of international organisation ICOM. This event promises to be very exciting. Not only is the programme full of engaging speakers and interesting visits to Finnish museums (yes it is in Finland), there is also a marketplace of exhibitions where museums and/or partners can pitch projects that are available or need collaborators.

Museums have had it tough the last few years; but rather than shrink, it seems that they are now growing. They are working together, embracing social media and being entrepreneurial in their endeavours to survive the storm together. In an increasingly globalised world on both an economic and cultural level, this seems like a very wise decision.

The Luxembourg Freeport: A 360° Overview Report from the 7th Deloitte Art & Finance Conference.

The 7th Deloitte Art & Finance conference last week was completely dominated by the subject of the opening of the Luxembourg Freeport. Taking place in the stunning setting of the Philharmonie Luxembourg it hosted over 300 attendees from financial, art management and museum industries respectively.

Solo presentations and panel discussions all revolved around the potential influence of the Luxembourg Freeport on the local art ecosystem and the location of the facility in the European landscape. There are more than 150 freeports in Europe, what makes the Luxembourg one so special?  Many specialists unanimously endorsed the project for various reasons.

In his opening speech Mr. Pierre Gramegna, Luxembourg’s Minister of Finance mentioned the low import tax (6%- lowest in Europe) and its robust security as the main reasons why this freeport is bound to succeed. Posing Luxembourg with its 150 banks as the financial centre of Europe as well as the investment commerce and e-payment leader outside the US, he said Luxembourg perfectly fits into the landscape.

imageOpening speech by Mr. Pierre Gramegna, Luxembourg’s Minister of Finance.

Mr. David Arendt, the Managing Director of the Freeport said he was almost emotional during the opening ceremony the night before. In his eyes, the 22,000m² storage facility with eight showrooms sets new standards for art logistics and with its reported 99% result on the GRASP report (Global Risk Assessment Survey Program), it has a multibillion insurance capacity. He described the undertaking as an entrepreneur Swiss concept, German technology, Italian design, Portuguese street art and Luxembourgish execution. The last task is to convince all the doubting ‘Thomases’ that the Freeport, already booked in 60%, is going to help Luxembourg become the cultural hub of the region.

'I hope for more synergies between collectors and museums to take place here.' -David Arendt, the Managing Director the Luxembourg Freeport

Mr. Arendt also added it will not be inconsistent with the local VAT regime.

imageLunch and networking opportunities at the Philharmonie Luxembourg.

The following panel discussions with logistics and finance specialists presented more diverse opinions. A question regarding Geneva’s bank secrecy met an answer that bank secrecy is becoming a thing of the past and freeports are now taking over the role of storing valuable assets. Another query about import tax which implied that it would be easier to import art via London to save on import tax was dismissed by a vague explanation that shipping costs further into Europe would make costs the same.

An exciting statement came out from Nicholas Mackel of Luxembourg for Finance, hoping that:

‘…the art stored in the Freeport will stimulate the local museums, as long as the owners agree’. 

It seems like the freeport has all the tools to become an interesting solution to many problems. We hope it will rejuvenate the cultural life of the region and become the international hub for valuable assets it aspires to be.

First Look at the Unseen Photo Fair in Amsterdam

Ratatouille and Smoke Bush (2014), Daniel Gordon © the artist. Courtesy of the artist and Wallspace, New York

Unseen Photo Fair in Amsterdam calls itself ‘the fair with a festival flair’. Food stands, bars, installations and outdoor exhibitions surround the grounds, and on entry you get a wristband similar to those given out at concerts, colour-coded depending on who you are – press, collector, exhibitor, VIP. The whole structure has been done in a makeshift, hippie style reminiscent of a Woodstock or Glastonbury.

The fair only shows work by new ‘unseen’ artists, or new bodies of work by established ones. The joint venture between Platform A, Vandejong Creative Agency, and FOAM Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam is now in its third year, and has attracted 53 Dutch and international galleries to its premises in the historic Westergasfabriek. It’s also lined up an impressive accompanying programme. The Unseen Book Market exhibits unpublished ‘dummies’ submitted by artists, as well as limited editions from publishers from around the world. The Unseen Living Room – an informal meeting place to exchange ideas – brings together leading minds such as Simon Baker of Tate, Matthew Leifheit from Vice and Thomas Seelig from Fotomuseum Winterthur.

Caco Twisted Balloon and Elliptical Aperture (2013), Lorenzo Vitturi © Lorenzo Vitturi and Flowers Gallery, London

More big names are exhibiting at the fair itself. The established Photographer’s Gallery in London is there, selling the work of a select group of artists. Anstice Oakeshott, the print sales coordinator for the museum, explains that this commercial arm ‘has always existed within the museum’s structure, the aim being to nurture photographers and collectors and to encourage interest in collecting.’  Undoubtedly, the status of this relatively young medium has grown thanks to initiatives like TPG’s.

I was also excited to see that Library of Birmingham has partnered with a curator from Division of Labour, to present a body of work by artists responding to their archive. The result is inspiring work, from a series of images that have been painted over with a white wash, showing how big corporations’ use of stock photos makes an artist invisible, to Stuart Whipps’ cunning reinterpretation of a form of sign language developed by Christopher Wren (who knew?) in a limited edition of prints.

‘With the funding cuts, though we are still backed by organisations like Arts Council England, public institutions have to look to the private sector’, says Nicola Shipley, the co-director of GRAIN, the Library of Birmingham subdivision behind the Unseen selection.

The Birmingham exhibition shows how artists are pushing the boundaries of photography, and there exists a strong trend more generally toward using the medium in inventive ways. As, Matt Lipps(one of the artists in FOAM’s new exhibition ‘Under Construction’, which discusses exactly this issue) stated: ‘professional photographers need to think about what they are saying now that everyone can be a photographer using their own smartphones.’ Lipps’ work reflects on the Time-Life standards of photography, with photo-collage works questioning the appropriate forms of photojournalist shots or studio imagery.

Also at FOAM is a solo show of Paul Huf award-winner Daniel Gordon, who takes the ‘what is photography’ question to the next level. In massive prints that resemble Matisse canvases, he plays with abstraction, collage and colour. The photographer is ‘making’ an image, not simply ‘taking’ it. At the main fair, further examples of this trend were visible. Lorenzo Vitturi, who made the fair’s cover image and is exhibiting on several stands, plays with planes and textures in painterly still-lifes.

Horse and Rider (2012), Carmen Freudenthal and Elle Verhagen © Freudenthal/Verhagen/The Ravestijn Gallery

Carmen Freudenthal and Elle Verhagen’s Horse and Rider uses in-your-face textiles; Matthew Murray’s dark, textured Stripperseries at Gallery Vassie is more subtle. Artists use archival paper to make images look historic, like Clare Langan’s triptych at Galerie Anita Beckers. Or they print on experimental surfaces, like Kasia Klimpel who even adds a spirit level to one of her works (off-centre). The atmosphere at the fair infectious: photography is exciting, inclusive, disruptive and fun. Those who are expecting to find traditional flat photography in a rectangular frame will be pleasantly surprised.

Unseen Photo Fair is at Westergasfabriek, Amsterdam, from 18–21 September.

Bernadine Brocker, CEO Vastari

Note: This article was first published on 17/09/2014 for Apollo Magazine. To view original please click here.

Vastari & Sotheby’s Institute of Art

We are excited to announce that Vastari will be lecturing at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London on the topic of  ’Online Resources for Museums and Private Collectors’. 

Our team is eager to present and will be discussing how museums and private collectors are increasingly using a range of resources to manage collections and connect with each other and the public. 

The lecture will place strong focus on how these two parties are embracing these tools and how they are using them to reach their goals based on the vision they have for their respective collections ending with a Q&A session for those attending. 

The Luxembourg Freeport: What Should we Expect?

Vastari representatives are attending exciting events in Luxembourg this week. The official opening of the Luxembourg Freeport, an international hub for valuable assets, on September 17th will be followed by the Deloitte 7th Art and Finance conference. The conference will take place in the stunning setting of the Philharmonie Luxembourg and will host Mr. Pierre Gramegna, Luxembourg Minister of Finance as guest speaker. The talks will revolve around the launch of the Luxembourg Freeport. We are hoping to learn about the local art ecosystem, Luxembourg Freeport Customs and Tax aspects and more.

Philharmonie Luxembourg

Mr. David Arendt, Managing Director the The Luxembourg Freeport

The launch of the Luxembourg Freeport was announced by Mr. David Arendt, the Managing Director of The Luxembourg Freeport at the Art Business Conference in Westminster on September 4th. It was pitched as a competitive alternative to Geneva, a next generation of Freeport offering a variety of collection management facilities such as art storage, private showrooms, logistic and insurance services for art collectors, investors and galleries. The space is going to maintain high security standards and work closely with the government against any acts of corruption.

Art and Business Conference, Westminster

After Mr. Arendt’s presentation there have been critical voices from the audience that unlike in Geneva, there is no bank secrecy in Luxembourg and so it cannot be presented as an equivalent. The claims of high security, keeping the insurance costs low failed convince the listeners, as premium is based on risk. In the end, storing accumulated works of art in a single location would make Luxembourg Freeport just as pricy as Geneva. The Freeport was pitched as a one stop shop for storage, sales, exhibition and restoration for high net worth individuals, but one could argue that it is simply an elegant warehouse.

We look forward to hearing to what the feedback will be at the Luxembourg conference. Hopefully the presentations will explain how the management is going to live up to the promises given at the Art Business Conference.


Innovation: It’s All A Matter of Time

Bernadine Brocker, CEO Vastari


When we tell people about Vastari, the first response is usually “That’s such a good idea, why hasn’t it been done before?” Reading Steve Blank’s latest post on why founders should know how to code made me remember this comment, and think more about the reason why Vastari is the first – and only, as far as we know – company to be using technology to connect museums and object owners for exhibitions.


Innovation requires coming at a problem from a different perspective, as you can read in Naveen Jian’s post on dreamers versus experts. With Vastari, we weren’t just at the right place at the right time. We were also looking at a problem from a different perspective. We understood HTML, knew what could and couldn’t be done, understood the growing new generation of young collectors and could see where the art world was going, based on other industries.


In the way of what Jian calls ‘dreamers,’ we were naïve about the existing boundaries in a way that ‘experts’ of the industry may not be. We looked at a world where it is normal for a curator to travel miles to see one work of art, just to find that it’s not appropriate for a show, or where is it normal to spend months waiting for a response from an auction house about a past sale – and it was hard to understand why something different would not be possible. But as outsiders, we didn’t see that there are politics behind the museum requests for exhibition: that the most important works are requested so often that it takes real negotiation to secure a loan for an exhibition, that auction houses don’t have time unless it’s one of their top clients and that curators are seen as proponents of the museum’s brand to their most important patrons.


All of these things have indeed come up since we started building our product, and we discovered that it wasn’t as simple as we thought. To be honest, part of the reason why we are the only ones doing what we do is because we were patient. With a typical sales cycle of 4 years, and an industry that needs to take its time to minimise the risk on these multi-million worth loans, there is a lot of waiting. You have to investigate and be inventive on how to make the business move faster.


And, most importantly, we knew how to understand what can and can’t be done in code. At a team scrum last week, Angela and I had a discussion about the new layout of our collector interface (due to be live by November 2014). There were beautiful things we were thinking of doing, but completing them in code would have taken weeks to alter, with very little to show for it. “It’s like taking a brick out of a wall, and saying you want to put it in vertically,” we mused, “Do we really want to do this?”


The ‘brick’ has now become a metaphor for anything that we think we can do, but will require too much time relative to the value it would add. “I want to add more details to this field on the object description – is that a ‘brick’?” Imagine if you built the company from scratch without realising that you are occasionally asking to move a ‘brick.’ It seems from experience and others’ stories that this misunderstanding is likely to be a main reason for web-based innovation to fail.


Understanding what will take a long time is important during the development process, when you are thinking about developing something in the lean way Blank, Eric Ries and their colleagues promote. If you don’t understand that something takes time, and make a demand to your development team, then you can burn a lot of development hours (and cash) on something that will not have an important impact on your product.


So with Vastari, we had the right perspective to see that museums needed to speak more with collectors, and that the perfect way to link them way using objects. We knew that the Internet was going to grow as a tool for the art world, and that networking is a crucial aspect of it. We knew that it was possible to build something for this… so we did, trying to understand what would take a long time along the way. You waste enough time trying to get the product-market fit right; don’t lose time on things you don’t have to!


Why Do Private Collectors Need Condition Reports?

 Our latest blog post by Annika Erikson, CEO of Articheck.

Articheck v2 Tour Aug-2014 quick from Annika Erikson on Vimeo.

What Are Condition Reports?

Condition Reports document the condition of an artwork at a certain time and place, much like the check done to a rental car or property before liability for damage is handed over.

These important documents serve several purposes, the main one being :

➔ To have a legal record in case of damage to an artwork indicating who is liable, what the damage is and when it took place.

Stop Damage Before It Occurs

Damage to an artwork can be expensive to restore and can have a negative impact on the value even after restoration. Having this type of documentation in place can help prevent damage from occurring at all, because the report itself serves as a very useful reminder to the liable party, i.e. a shipper, framer, storage service or gallery, that they are responsible for the care of the work, that the condition is well documented so even minor damage will be noticed, and that they are accountable should anything go wrong.

Museum Loans & Preservation

For private collectors with museum quality pieces who loan for exhibitions, condition reports are often a requirement of the loan agreement, and this is increasingly the case. Artwork of this calibre should be accompanied by in-depth documentation in any case due to the both the financial value and cultural significance of the work. A condition report will alert the collector or collection manager if there is damage that requires restoration, or an emerging issue that might be solved through better storage conditions. An artwork in poor condition cannot be exhibited and enjoyed, and will be less valuable, often significantly.

Restoration practices cannot deal with all types of damage and will often not bring an artwork back to mint condition. Preservation (protection of the work from major damage occurring in the first place) is by far the best strategy for a collector.

A Smoother Claims Process & Theft Protection

If you do ever need to make an insurance claim for your artwork, having a thorough and up- to- date condition report of the work will make the claims process much smoother. Importantly, if theft should occur, insurance providers warn that recovering an artwork that has not been properly documented is very difficult if not impossible. A condition report provides physical evidence used to help identify stolen artwork.

Condition Reports for Your Collection

If you would like to have condition reports done for your collection, contact Articheck.

We can produce the condition reports for you, by utilising our international network of reputable conservators to send someone local to you, or provide software and training for faster, better condition reports by your in-house team.

Redefining ‘Going Dutch’

Next week is the opening of Unseen Photo Fair in Amsterdam, an innovative Dutch event that is blazing a trail for the international photography world.

The event has as a mission to exhibit ‘unseen’ photography - either by emerging photographers who are new to the market, or new work by established artists that are also new to the market. Unseen calls itself a ‘photo fair with a festival flair’ - I look forward to seeing this first-hand.

The event is innovative, the concept is new and the work promises to be exciting, but it is the connection between museums, collectors, government and the fair that I find very exciting about this new concept. In general, The Netherlands is innovating in the way that organisations collaborate on initiatives – initiatives that will help the overall craft grow in appeal. This was already clear when in 2012 I found that museums didn’t find it innovative to build bridges between private individuals and themselves (what Vastari was selling at the time); they collaborate with the market frequently and enthusiastically.

Before writing about Unseen’s fantastic programme and giving you a live update from the fair next week, I’d like to highlight another exciting initiative in the south of the Netherlands where these collaborations are clear: Strijp S in Eindhoven. 

Eindhoven is becoming more known in the last few years, not only because of the Ryanair flights coming into their airport but also because of the way they are using resources to support art and design.


Though Eindhoven’s Van Abbemuseum is a strong proponent of contemporary culture in the region, Strijp-S has with a finger on the pulse for developments in the art & tech scene, in what used to be the massive Philips factory and glassblowing facilities, nearly 100 years after Anton Philips set up the factory in 1916.


The area has been re-appropriated and the buildings’ massive spaces now house design boutiques, workshops and exciting events.

I walked into their annual Chilllifest on Saturday, where I got to try amazing sambal, chili sauces, Mexican food and even chili marmalades. What a treat! The idea of craftsmanship that I was expecting from the design boutiques was also to be found in the artisanal spices brought to this location. 

And it brought some interesting characters to the area…

All along the eastern-block, 20th century brutalist designed buildings is a new flow of innovative, colourful and inspiring creativity. The Government has agreed to invest money into the re-appropriated buildings and the studios for artists, which has led to many exciting new projects. To think that discussions of reinvigorating the area started in 2000, much has already been achieved in this area, by the government, designers, entrepreneurs and youth working together.

It was truly beautiful to experience beautiful photography scarves, unique flower arrangements, retro curtains by Henri van Nuenen that felt like they’d been taken from the 60s to 2014, and beautiful asymmetrical contemporary porcelain designs.

A subsequent visit to the workshop of Piet Hein Eek showed more ways that Eindhoven is at the forefront of design. Eek reuses wood from a variety of sources - boat rigs, scaffolding, etc and has a distinct style that works brilliantly in the warehouse lofts and brutal modern structures that exist in the ex-Philips buildings.

Closet in Piet Hein Eek style

Eek bought this property from Philips, so the buildings from the industrialist were again a place of innovation. I was also inspired by the work of two young designers, Rene Siebum and Steven Banken who have a studio near Eek. The two were very busily preparing for the Dutch Design Week coming up in Eindhoven in October, and the inspiration was palatable in the air.

“Sheaves” a Reed bench by Steven Banken


Amazing space-saving wardrobe by Rene Siebum

Now on to the Unseen Fair, opening on Wednesday. The VIP programme includes visits to private collectors, the important museums and a government archive collection in the Hague. The fair’s brochure is a design by Lorenzo Vitturi, the same artist who just had a solo exhibition called the Dalston Anatomy at The Photographers Gallery in London.


Dutch collaboration at its best celebrates the designers/photographers/makers by bringing together museums, government, industry, entrepreneurship and galleries, as has been done in Eindhoven’s Strijp-S.

The Unseen fair brings together private collectors, museum curators and galleries in a beautiful symbiotic relationship, unique for photography, innovative in regards to the current divisionism in the art world seen as the status quo for other parts of the world – a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘going Dutch.’

Lights, Camera, Action: Horst P. Horst

The V&A have orchestrated a retrospective spanning over the 60 year career of the photographer, Horst P. Horst. The German-American photographer is best known for his photography of fashion and women. However the V&A exhibition has not limited us in any way, as a wide range of Horst’s work is on show, from fashion to home & garden to male bums.


Horst began his journey with Vogue in the early 1930s. In 1931, Horst had his first photograph published in Vogue France. By the mid 1930’s Horst had bypassed his mentor George Hoyningen-Huene and became Vogue’s primary photographer. By this point his images were appearing in the British, French and American editions of the magazines. Soon enough Horst was rubbing shoulders with acclaimed Coco Chanel. Who he then spent the next three decades working closely with.


Coco Chanel, 1937 by Horst P. Horst

The Horst couture room at the V&A plays host to the vintage prints by Horst from the Vogue archives. A model that strikes out continuously is the Swedish born Lisa Fonssagrives. Horst took a few test shots of Fonssagrives at the French Vogue studio whilst she was working as a teacher. Soon enough she became a star model. Fonssagrives states later on “I became a model because he made me one”. I suppose this a mere insight to the power Horst’s photographs bare.

Below are the vintages prints of Fonssagrives, annotated by Horst.




At the end of the fashion centred room stand 9 mannequins dressed in the finest 1930’s Parisian inspired clothing. A great touch by the V&A.




Later on an array of Horst Vogue colour prints are exhibited. These are rarely exhibited as very few colour vintage prints exist. 


A fasnicating insight into Horsts surrealistic work is given light. The surrealist art movement embarked upon the world of dreams and the unconscious for breaths of inspirations. At this time period Horst created a number of still lifes and collaborated with the father of surrealism Salvador Dali. His work from this period truly shows how great Horst is a photographer, one that is not constrained by an ability to only explore fashion and modelling. He truly is a master of all themes.  




Lisa: Hands with Vase & Flowers, Date unknown by Horst P. Horst

And just before you leave you get a glimpse of an array of male nude photographs.


Male Nude, Back Study 1, 1952 by Horst P. Horst

Overall a great send off.

Biennale des Antiquaires: Bienvenue a Paris

Who: Biennale des Antiquaires

What: Jewels 

Where: Grand Palais

When: 11-21 September 2014

“to create an event where the beauty of the objects displayed would rival that of the women who would visit the exhibition’’


This coming week plays host to the 27th Biennale des Antiquaires. Set in Paris under the extraordinary glass roofs of the Grand Palais where the finest jewellery will be exhibited.

Grand Palais, Paris 

The 2012 26th Biennale Des Antiquaires saw the first Asian Jewellery house to be invited, Wallace Chan, and the first appearance of Bulgari at the event. This year expect to see all the houses come together: Boucheron, Cartier, Chanel, Harry Winston, Piaget, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, Chaumet, Dior, and Wallace Chan. With each house given the opportunity to create their own personal jewelling mecca within a mini maison. Prepare for a breeze of New York at Harry Winston and chic interior at Chanel.

Harry Winston at Biennale des Antiquaires 

Houses such as Harry Winston have been present at the Biennale since 1974. Frédéric de Narp, President and CEO says “At Harry Winston, we share in the same values of authenticity, exclusivity and a quest for the exceptional. We look forward to sharing a selection of our rarest and most spectacular designs with all the devotees of fine jewellery and art who will attend.”

Wave necklace with 534 brilliant-cut diamonds and a single 60.14 carat pear-cut diamond, in a platinum setting. 

Above all, the exhibition is like no other, the dealers are eager to discuss their pieces and ‘do not touch’ signs are nowhere to be seen.