centerlogobigAAD logo



JUser: :_load: Unable to load user with ID: 865

Art, I think we can all agree by now, is neither dead nor dying – despite a century or more of grim predictions.
But we may be facing another story in the case of the museums, or at least, the institution of the museum as we know it. As the best artworks and antiques become increasingly the provenance of the very, very rich – and unaffordable for even the wealthiest of museums, like the Metropolitan and the Louvre – the future of museums now appears to stand largely with private collectors, through their philanthropy, their generosity, and – admittedly – from time to time, their egos.

To our great fortune, more and more of those collectors have taken not just to donating individual art works to existing museums, but to developing museums that encompass their entire collection (or most of it) in the tradition of, say, Henry Clay Frick. Some of these, of course, are well-known, such the Eli and Edythe Broad and Beyeler Museums. Others, particularly in countries new to modern and contemporary art, are less visible to the global art world. But all face the same basic challenges, balanced against the same basic foundation: the collectors’ desires to share their love of art with their communities, and their hope that in so doing, they will inspire others.

Abigail 3The Summit

Enter the Private Museum Summit, a weekend created specifically for the founders of these museums, staged during the 2014 Art14 fair in London, and organized by Phillip Dodd, Chair of the Art 14 Advisory Board, with sponsorship from Citi Private Banking. The goal – and benefit – of the event, said Citi Private Bank Art Advisory & Finance Managing Director Suzanne Gyorgy, was the opportunity to “get into the nuts and bolts of what it takes to have a private museum, and how to make it sustainable.”

More important, the event was a final step in the process of launching a Global Private Museum Association which, Dodd explains, will “enable museums to circulate their exhibitions, share expertise, and maximize their financial negotiating power with shippers, etc.”

“Collectors always like to share their art pieces with others, either through public or private exhibition spaces,” observes Can Elgiz, an attendee of the summit who, with his wife Sevda, founded the Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art in Istanbul in 2001. Collector Sylvain Levy of the DSL Collection of Chinese Art agrees. But “it’s about much more than just the museum,” he notes. “To me, the whole idea of a museum is actually unclear: what is interesting is not the museum itself, but what the collectors are all doing – supporting their art scene and building a collection that can be valuable to the community. It’s more about the spirit.”

That spirit is perhaps what most distinguishes private museums from public ones, in fact. As Levy points out, “ The main difference between a collection and a museum is that a collector is free to collect whatever he wants. Every collection is a personal adventure; a public museum is not. Collectors are the ones who take risks. Museums never, ever, take risks. So gathering all these adventures makes this very different than a summit of public museums.“

Yet for all the enthusiasm for the idea of the Private Museum Association, several major owners of such museums were not at the London event.

Abigail 4Can Elgiz And His Daughter, Canda, At The Private Museum Summit

“We invited everyone,” explains Citibank’s Gyorgy, “because all the museums can benefit, but only a few came.” Not so, counters Dodd, who says that he in fact only invited a select few. When asked if this was not creating an exclusive membership, he replied. “selective, not exclusive,” as if effectually it made any difference. (It doesn’t.) But wouldn’t a global private museum association be most beneficial to all concerned if every priv​ate art museum could join? Why only those Dodd (who doesn’t have a museum himself), decrees qualify?

True, one wants to have standards. But according to Dodd, the principle criteria are that the museums must be “outward-facing with declared public hours” – features which clearly apply to, say, Mitch Rales’ Glenstone Museum, or the Pizzuti Collection, who were not invited. By contrast, Sylvain Levy, who – despite his devotion to sharing his collection of Chinese contemporary art via museum loans and social media does not have a museum --was.

“We invited the Levys because we wanted to help owners of museums with physical buildings understand one of the ways museums might develop,” Dodd explains, “museums online that are always open.”

To be straight up about it, and while I admire the Levys -- who are among the largest and most visible collectors of Chinese Contemporary-- I suspect that their inclusion in the conference and the association has more to do with a connection between them and Dodd, who heads up Made In China -- a company that, among other things, advises and supports corporate and cultural ventures in China. But I confess that is pure speculation. Still, as Levy himself points out, his paradigm does open new options for other collectors who may shy away from building a brick-and-mortar museum. A museum “is difficult to sustain,” he observes. “At a certain point you need to have temporary exhibitions, and then you are in competition with public museums. So the thing is to go where people are. That’s why whatever we collect, we lend, and we are able to have temporary exhibitions within the digital world.” Besides, he adds, “Every experience has its own limits and advantages.

We don’t want to be squared into a wall.”

- See more at:…