The Entrepreneurial Museum: how the Art Business Conference can be a place for institutions, too

Posted on Museums
Posted on Museums

Every year, in London in September and in New York in April, art world professionals come together for something called the “Art Business Conference.” It is an event that aims to bring together the industry to discuss business issues that they all share. Past conferences have discussed Brexit, ivory bans, KYC/AML, the market in China, the market in India, marketing and social media, and even travelling exhibitions.

The conference initially was dominated by commercial players in the market: dealers, gallerists, art advisors, lawyers and wealth managers. But increasingly, the non-profit players of the art world are also getting interested. The travelling exhibitions panel in New York in April brought in an expert like Suzanne Quigley, formerly of the Whitney, Guggenheim and Detroit Institute of Arts, to discuss a registrar’s perspective of the perils of the travelling show.

In recent conversations with us at Vastari, director Louise Hamlin expressed that she wants the conference to go one step further to involve museum professionals working with art and culture alongside the trade. So many of the subjects at the conference coming up in London in September are relevant to museum professionals, and surely both sides could definitely learn from each other.

There is a panel at this year’s conference that is directly linked to the museum sector - it’s even in the title. The panel discussion called “The Entrepreneurial Museum” will discuss initiatives that museums are taking to explore new revenue streams that are less reliant on government funding. The trade will be certainly have suggestions on how to make this happen, that museum professionals will be able to adjust to their own context whilst staying truthful to their mission and message, and their code of ethics. It is really exciting to have so many minds discussing this under the same roof.

The Van Gogh Museum, Royal Academy and National Portrait Gallery will be discussing these new opportunities, and Vastari will also be contributing with some data that we’ve gathered on the global market for travelling exhibitions, the kind of content that can be exported, and also, of course, the experience of walking that fine line between for-profit and nonprofit, and the principles of the museum code of ethics.

For museums, money often is something that they would rather not speak about, or that many professionals feel “cheapens” and constrains their academic pursuits. But given their responsibilities as arbiters of culture and custodians of human memory, it is extremely important that they are funded sustainably. We really look forward to discussing this, and hope that others in the industry will be joining us on the day.