Robert Ekelund has written a book about the economics of American art that will be out next year. He wrote a piece trying to explain why Contemporary art siphons cash from museums, he particularly wants to point to the fact that museums operate at a deficit with sponsors picking up the shortfall.
Ekelund raises some good and interesting points but then there’s the old false equivalence as the example below shows. The Met’s operating deficit may be as much a sign of internal mis-management as it is a failure to attract generous donors.
There are few in New York or the world of billionaires who would say that the Met’s board is a lesser social ambition than MoMA’s prestigious board:
Art museums, which I would argue make some of the most important contributions to contemporary culture, number about 1,575 and are also very popular. One of the most famous, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (“the Met”), for example, saw a record 6.5 million visitors in 2015, making it the world’s third most popular museum.
But record attendance doesn’t necessarily translate into record revenue. Just last month, the Met said it is laying off more than 100 of its employees as it tries to erase a $10 million budget deficit, just a few months after it announced a hiring freeze and voluntary buyouts.
Meanwhile, one of its rivals down the street, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), is flush with cash and just received another $100 million for an expansion and renovation. Yet only about three million people stopped by to see its art in 2015, ranking it 15th in the world.
Why the booming contemporary art market is bad for art museums (The Washington Post)