Vastari in the Art Newspaper, April 2019
"Art venues have half the budget of science museums for temporary exhibitions, new report finds"
Research by UK startup Vastari delves into hidden economics of museums' special shows
HANNAH MCGIVERN, Published 1st April 2019 12:10 BST
Special exhibitions are the bread and butter of the museums world, yet the finances behind them remain largely opaque. A new study by the UK-based exhibitions “matchmaking” startup Vastari—which connects museums to private collectors and commercial exhibition producers—aims to bring more transparency to this secretive marketplace, says the firm’s chief executive Bernardine Bröcker Wieder.
The Exhibition Finance Report: Market Size Analysis is based on online and telephone surveys of around 500 museums on Vastari’s database between August 2017 and July 2018—62% art institutions and 38% science, largely from Europe (50%) and North America (41%). The data aggregation and analysis was led by Lindsay Dewar of the London-based art market research company ArtTactic, who previously contributed to the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report and the Tefaf Art Dealer Finance Report.
Posing questions about museums’ preferences for hosting and touring shows and their exhibition budgets, the survey grew out of Vastari’s regular customer service process, Bröcker Wieder says. “Museums get approached all the time by exhibition producers with content that is irrelevant. We started asking these questions so we wouldn’t bug them. Then we realised this was knowledge that the market needed.” A first version of the Exhibition Finance Report was published last October along with the Vastari Global Report, which focused on the logistics of museum exhibitions.
The new research, on which Vastari collaborated with “one of the big four” consulting firms, calculates the annual cost of temporary exhibitions globally at $5.9bn, encompassing around 140,000 exhibitions—seven a year at the approximately 20,000 museums accredited by ICOM (International Council of Museums). By comparison, the latest Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report values the global art market in 2018 at $67.4bn.
Despite the multi-billion-dollar valuation, the report’s most surprising finding was that “a huge proportion of art institutions are working on a micro-budget” for exhibitions, Bröcker Wieder says, with 39% citing less than $10,000 per show on average. Only 7% landed in the “high budget” category of more than $100,000, compared with 23% of science museums, even though fine art exhibitions tend to involve higher-value objects and greater logistical complications. The reasons for this disparity are a matter of speculation, Bröcker Wieder says, adding that lower public investment in the arts may play a part.
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