The New York Times ran a thin, a poorly reported piece on the trend of big new museums underwritten by billionaires like Carlos Slim, Francois Pinault, Bernard Arnault and Elie Broad.
What does it take to become a world-class art collector? These days, you need to build not only a great collection, but a great museum to house it in. Over the past few years, a rash of art-loving billionaires have dedicated themselves, or their foundations, to the construction of spectacular new venues to show off their finest acquisitions.
That’s really not a trend. Or, to be more precise, the trend is much bigger and deeper than the Times’s silly, vamping story. The newspaper’s staff knows that there’s a decade and a half trend toward private collectors building their own museums. From the clutch of competing Contemporary collectors in Miami to the heartland and DC, there is a large number of private museum projects going forward by billionaires and lesser mortals alike.
And those who don’t build their own museums are donating their works to universities—like Stanford, Harvard, Yale, University of Chicago and Princeton—that are expanding and renovating their museums in an effort to attract the best students and more alumni donations:
Elite campuses across the country have emerged from the recession riding a multibillion-dollar wave of architecturally ambitious arts facilities, even as community arts programs struggle against public indifference. The current tide of building developed over years, as universities reassert the essential value of the arts to a well-rounded education, aided by deep-pocket alumni willing to underwrite elaborate new facilities “for noble and not always so noble reasons,” Mr. Lentz said. […]
The university is building “a beautification project,” said Stanley N. Katz, the director of Princeton’s Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies. “So far as I can tell, the expansion contributes in only modest ways to the intellectual mission of the university.” The prominent refocusing on arts is to some extent lip service, Mr. Katz added. “Arts appeal to certain wealthy alumni who are more likely to give money to this sort of thing than something else.”
A New Status Symbol for Billionaires: Art Museum (NYTimes.com)
On Elite Campuses, an Arts Race (NYTimes.com)