Edward Winkleman’s blog post yesterday on the hows and hopes that the new presidency would support the arts led me to thinking about funding. I appreciate an impressive amount of sponsorship from big corporations that in themselves I don’t always love. For instance in New York, the Brooklyn Museum of Art has Target First Saturdays, MoMA has Target First Fridays, and the Whitney After Hours program is sponsored by law firm Clifford Chance. Banks commonly sponsor major exhibitions.
This is not to say individuals do not play a role; on the contrary, the donations and loans by individuals are the traditional mainstay a museum depends on, for pieces of art as well as programs. Yet individuals don’t seem to be able to wholly fulfill that role anymore. Consider the Morgan Library. Once the home of art patron and financier Pierpont Morgan, the Morgan Library is a museum that was once a home, like the Frick Museum, but now made in to a public scpace and run by a board. Individuals still help support these institutions, but individuals are no longer the primary consumers or supporters of art. It’s a sea change from an individual to corporate level as a world of domineering steel age barons of America has given way to the dominate institutions of today.
Unfortunately, those institutions aren’t likely to be flush with money in 2009. Thomas Campbell, the new director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has a plan to my liking: utilize the parts of the collection in storage rather than host expensive traveling exhibitions. Some are excited by the potential sales of private art collections that recent financial collapses have encouraged, but they should be more nervous about the future of sponsorship that also signals, as institutions become less likely to pledge funds. All the more reason for the hopes that a new White House administration can fix everything. Rings a tad naïve to my ears, but here’s to hoping.