Curators are from Venus, entrepreneurs are from Mars

A few weeks ago I was honoured to participate in a panel discussion organised by the Art Fund and Sotheby’s Institute of Art focussing on Strengthening the Museum through its Trade Relationships.

Coincidentally on the same week I was lucky enough to also present Vastari as an example of disruptive digital businesses at Cass Business School. Not without feeling some pressure to live up to the expectations set by the previous speaker, a technology team leader at Transferwise.

Finding myself in front of different audiences, namely young UK based museum professionals, and international students at one of the most prestigious business schools globally, has stimulated some thoughts that are worth sharing.

Given the nature of my audiences, the different format and topics, the two talks were inevitably quite different. What is interesting to notice is that both sides were really receptive and could quickly relate to issues that they might not have had to previously reflect on within their professional life.

The Business School students were immediately thinking about authenticity and appreciating how a database that can be browsed by keyword could stimulate new cross-disciplinary and thematic connections.

Conversely curators were extremely receptive towards the idea of the private sector helping them develop a more entrepreneurial approach to pitching their ideas and projects to colleagues to obtain approval and budget.

The obvious questions then becomes do businesses and museums really need to be thought of as two separate universes with very little to share?

The answer to this question is not an obvious one, as this dichotomy has informed the way the private and public sectors have traditionally thought of themselves and I would argue has deeply affected their relationship.

Quite often striving to be effective with the available resources, time management, setting clear goals and negotiations are skills that art historians and curators are not taught or expected to have.

On the other hand typically for successful businessman culture is something they would think about in their leisurely time, or as part of their charitable endeavours.

When one considers that thinking creatively about practical matters is what entrepreneurs are good at doing, it seems like a shame that they are not more involved in the cultural sector.

A more pragmatic approach to exhibition planning could unlock significant value by creating more time for curators to focus on narratives, stimulating new unexpected connections perhaps even across different disciplines and certainly with an international scope.

The idea at the core of Vastari - providing the cultural sector with an efficient way of connecting - is so simple! The most frequent remark when I share our story is in fact that it’s hard to believe that no one has thought about doing this before.

And still to our sector the idea that the entrepreneurial and the creative sides are stronger together is something that is perceived as quite revolutionary.

We seem to have discovered the industry’s best kept secret: when you combine creative skills with an entrepreneurial approach, great things can be achieved.