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ARTPRICE – The Museum Industry®: Exhibiting Art in the 21st Century


ARTPRICE – The Museum Industry®: Exhibiting Art in the 21st Century

With the prices of masterpieces now exceeding the purchasing budgets of the largestpublic museums, the latter are being forced to find new ways to pursue their development.Competing against corporate foundations and private collectors with much deeper pocketsand a much greater flexibility of action, State institutions have to pursue long-term projectsthat are less reactive to market trends.

Artprice’s CEO /founder thierry Ehrmann recalls: “the world saw more museums builtbetween 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2014 than during the entire 19th and 20thcenturies. Indeed, every year sees the opening of around 700 new world-class museumson five different continents, each with a minimum of 4,500 artworks.The ‘Soft Power’ ambitions of the major powers (particularly China and the United States) are an essential geopolitical driver of this Museum Industry® growth and represent a fundamental elementin Artprice’s conceptualisation of today’s Art Market”.


Continuing to buy…

With a basic acquisitions budget of less than $20 million a year, lots of historical pieces are

simply beyond the reach of the Louvre Museum (the world’s largest museum by visitor

numbers). Fortunately, the Louvre receives occasional one-off donations. In 2016, France

and the Netherlands agreed to jointly acquire two Rembrandt portraits from the French

Rothschild collection. Each State contributed €80 million to acquire one of these two

paintings, which will be shown alternatively at the Louvre and the Rijksmuseum, but

always together.

Rembrandt van Rijn Portrait of Oopjen Coppit, 1634 Portrait of Marten Soolmans, 1634

Rembrandt van Rijn
Portrait of Oopjen Coppit, 1634
Portrait of Marten Soolmans, 1634

Nowadays that type of solution is very exceptional indeed because in the vast majority of

cases the major museums are no match for the billionaires. However, by implementing a

variety of legal mechanisms (loans, donations, gifts) certain States have managed to enlist

their highly valuable support.

In July 2002, ​ Massacre of the Innocents ​ (c. 1610), a painting freshly re-attributed to Peter

Paul Rubens, generated the art world’s third best-ever auction result (at the time) at

Sotheby’s in London. Canadian businessman Kenneth Thomson paid $69.7 million to

acquire the work, which he then lent to the National Gallery in London before donating it to

the Art Gallery of Ontario, an acquisition that the Canadian museum could not have made

on its own.

Contemporary Art already too expensive

In 2017, the 40-year-old Japanese businessman Yusaku Maezawa paid $110.5 million at

Christie’s in New York for Jean-Michel Basquiat’s ​ Untitled ​ (1982). Two years earlier, the

same collector purchased another major canvas by the New York graffiti artist for $57

million. Both works will soon be exhibited, along with the rest of Maezawa’s collection, in

his own Contemporary Art Museum located on the outskirts of Tokyo (Chiba).

While waiting for his museum to open, the young collector lent the $110.5 million painting to the

Brooklyn Museum for the exhibition « One Basquiat » (January – March 2018). The show

received an unexpectedly high number of visitors, attributable, in part at least, to the

presence of this work, having suddenly become Jean-Michel Basquiat’s most famous


In an interview with the New York Times in May 2017, Ann Temkin, chief curator of the

MoMA’s painting and sculpture section, regretted that her museum did not acquire works

by Jean-Michel Basquiat in time. Twenty years after the artist’s death, the prestigious New

York institution does not possess a single work by Basquiat and his prices are now so high

that it cannot hope to acquire one directly.

Private collectors regularly lend their works, but there can be no doubt that the MoMA is waiting for a definitive donation. Several works on paper have already been promised by the collector Sheldon H. Solow and made available to the museum.

Basquiat is the most striking example of a Contemporary artist whose prices climbed far

too quickly. But many other Contemporary artists are experiencing a similar situation.

These include Peter Doig, Richard Prince, Christopher Wool, and more recently George

Condo and Rudolf Stingel.

From private collection to museum

The major European institutions (the Louvre, the Prado, the British Museum, etc.) were

established in the late-18th and early-19th centuries around important private collections,

often royal collections in fact. For over two centuries, in response to the growing

importance of ‘culture’ in society, States tried to enrich their collections by acquiring

artworks at roughly the same pace as the development of artistic creation.

At the same time, major private collections were built up by powerful industrialists and bankers like the Rothschilds and Rockefellers. Some of these collections have found a place in major

museums like the Robert Lehman collection at the Metropolitan Museum.

As of the 21st century, private museums have multiplied in number exponentially. To a

certain extent, their success has been driven by media coverage of the Art Market. NewYork’s Neue Gallery, which opened in 2001, received international publicity with the

acquisition in 2006 of Gustav Klimt’s ​ Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I ​ for $135 million, an

all-time record for Art Market (at the time).

The growth of the Art Market has intensified competition between major museums and

collectors. The latter build more personal and sometimes more coherent collections when

it comes to Contemporary art. In the United States, these collections have spawned some

of the most prestigious Art Centers in the country: The Rubell Family Collection (Miami),

The Broad Museum (Los Angeles), The Hill Art Foundation (New York).

In Europe, corporate foundations and private collections have also become part of the

cultural landscape. France, particularly, is home to lots of major private institutions like the

Maeght Foundation in Saint-Paul de Vence, the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris and

outlets for ‘new’ art in enchanting places such as the Carmignac Foundation on the island

of Porquerolles.

The strength of Asian collectors

Asian collectors also have all the necessary qualities to participate in this new model: an

immense appetite for Art and its History, tremendous financial capacity and, above all, the

desire to share their collections with the general public. In Japan, the Mori Art Museum,

created by the promoter Minoru Mori, has established itself as a veritable temple of

Contemporary Art.

In China, billionaire Liu Yiqian is actively working to build one of Asia’s finest collections.

His museum – the Long Museum in Shanghai – combines traditional and Contemporary

Chinese art, as well as historical Western artworks. On 9 November 2015 he acquired

Amedeo Modigliani’s ​ Reclining Nude ​ (1917-18) at Christie’s in New York for $170 million.

In fact, Liu Yiqian is so wealthy he apparently bought the painting cash… with his

American Express card.

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