Philanthropy - Museums and Collectors

The Financial Times recently posted and interesting article on collaborative efforts between collectors and museums.  The philanthropic trend is to assist museums in purchases and take a partial ownership in the property as well as owning to hang in homes and purchasing with a museum in mind for a later donation.

This certainly is an opportunity for both fine art advisory and appraisals.

The Financial Times reports.
On the phone from her home in Dallas, Texas, Marguerite Hoffman is explaining how she came to be in possession of Gerhard Richter’s 1968 cityscape “Stadtbild Mü”. “It’s owned two-thirds by the Dallas Museum of Art and one-third by me,” she says. “It used to be a third each with the Rachofskys, me and the museum, but then Howard [Rachofsky] gifted his third to the museum …”

She pauses, and resolves to spare me the fiddly details. “It can get kind of crazy, but it’s worked out.”

At Art Basel Miami Beach on Thursday, Howard Rachofsky will take part in the panel debate “Public Museums and Private Partnerships”, where he will discuss this decade-old collaboration between a group of Dallas-based collectors and the Dallas Museum of Art [DMA]. It is one of a growing number of creative partnerships — forms of philanthropy that go beyond straightforward gifts and bequests — that are blurring the line between public and private art, providing new opportunities and new challenges for public institutions.

In 2005, Hoffman and her husband Robert (co-founder of the National Lampoon magazine, who died in 2006) joined forces with Howard Rachofsky, his wife Cindy, and Deedie and Rusty Rose to bequeath their collections (worth more than $300m at the time) to the DMA. What made the gift so unusual was that the agreement encompassed all future acquisitions, allowing collectors and museum to work collaboratively on honing their holdings and — as in the case of the Richter — co-owning expensive works.

Hoffman tells me that she often buys with the museum in mind. She points to her acquisition of work by the African-American conceptual artist Rashid Johnson as an example: “It might not have been something I would have prioritised aesthetically, but I think it’s really important work and it’s important we diversify our collection.”

While the Dallas collectors’ model is unique, they are not the only philanthropists bridging the divide between public and private in unusual ways. Over on the West Coast, the American-German investor and think-tank founder Nicolas Berggruen has been collecting art with the explicit intention of placing it in a public institution for several years.

“This is a way of doing something for the community, for the museum and for oneself,” he says of the model. The collection he has amassed centres on German artists — Joseph Beuys and Sigmar Polke among them — and California-based pioneers such as Chris Burden.

Unlike the Dallas collectors, Berggruen isn’t interested in hanging the art in his home before its donation. While he is no longer a “homeless billionaire” (the label which dogged him for years due to his itinerant lifestyle), he prefers to keep his growing collection in storage, except for the works out on loan.

It is not yet known which institution will provide a permanent home for Berggruen’s collection. Initially, he collaborated closely with Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Lacma) CEO Michael Govan on the purchases, telling the Financial Times in 2013 that he had “made a commitment to one place”.

Now, Berggruen tells me that while he is still working closely with Lacma (where he is a trustee), his current plan is to split his collection between several institutions, including an art space of his own that he plans to open as part of the Berggruen Institute in Los Angeles. The shift hints at the uncertainties museums face when partnering with private collectors: their intentions may change.

For some, the Dallas deal has demonstrated the pitfalls of private partnerships. When Hoffman sold a Rothko in 2007, and the Rachofskys a Jeff Koons “Balloon Flower” in 2008, local newspapers pored over the sales, questioning whether they were in the best interest of the DMA. It’s a debate that Hoffman is tired of having: “We edit in almost every aspect of our lives if we’re living purposefully and thoughtfully, and collecting is no different,” she says.

Not all private philanthropy hinges on such long-term plans. Sebastien Montabonel is an art consultant who co-initiated Going Public, a programme that brought influential collectors together with state-funded galleries in Sheffield, UK, this year to display works from their private collections and workshop new ways of collaborating.

In Montabonel’s opinion, one of the most innovative public-private partnerships in the UK at present is the Artist Rooms, a collaboration between the dealer-turned-collector Anthony d’Offay, Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland. The deal dates back to 2008, when d’Offay sold his collection of more than 700 works worth £125m to the galleries for £26.5m. D’Offay set out the terms of the acquisition: his collection was to form the basis of a series of Artist Rooms, each dedicated to exploring a single artist. To make this in-depth treatment possible, he has boosted the original collection by purchasing works directly for the galleries over the past eight years.

Montabonel, who firmly believes that, in the future, there will be no clear cut line between public and private art institutions, says that the relationship works because it is equal: “Tate would never have been able to make all the acquisitions without Anthony,” he says. “Everyone will benefit.” He is less convinced by collaborations where the partnership appears to be lopsided, such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s acquisition of the Fisher Collection (announced in 2009), which required the museum to make significant concessions regarding how the work would be displayed. “Sometimes you can wonder if some of these museums are not public museums but becoming private museums at public expense,” he says.

This tango — the intricacies of who is influencing whom — is one that’s never far from the thoughts of philanthropic collectors. When I ask Michael Wilson, producer of the Bond films and eminent photography patron, about who makes the decisions in his partnerships with public institutions (in the UK, he works most often with Tate), he is defensive: “The idea that I’m somehow influencing [curators] is ridiculous. They give me advice, I give them advice, but I probably get more input from them than they get from me, that’s for sure.”

Marguerite Hoffman
Wilson’s most innovative way of working with public institutions is to sponsor photographers on particular projects, then help museums to acquire the resulting limited edition series. He sponsored Taryn Simon’s travel over a three-year period as she assembled the photographs that would become A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters, which premiered at Tate Modern in 2012. There is no compulsion for museums to accept shows he has helped put together. “I simply say to museums ‘Do you want this?’,” he tells me. Do they ever say no? “It’s happened,” he says with a chuckle.

Given the scale of Wilson’s collection, why not set up a private museum? “I’m not interested,” he says. “With contemporary art collections built by several generations of curators you see a much more diverse collection.”

What private philanthropists hope is that their presence, and their buying power, have the potential to enliven public spaces without overpowering them.

“Personal collections have a lot more idiosyncratic choices within them that make them different to what a museum might do,” says Hoffman, whose collecting interests range from illuminated manuscripts to video art by Rachel Rose and Ragnar Kjartansson.

“Museums are a slice of time and I want the slice that I’m in to be as varied and diverse and robust as possible.”
Source: Financial Times 

No comments: