A TFAO Report: Lending Art to Museums for Special Exhibitions
Traditional Fine Arts Organization (TFAO) encourages individuals who own important works of art to consider publicly exhibiting single or multiple pieces from their collections. Owners may be heirs of estates of artists or people who have collected over a period of time. A motive for lending a private collection can be to share viewing of the collection with the public in a safe setting with the benefit of professional assistance. Private owners may also wish to add to the monetary value of works in their collections through public exposure. In a September 2006 The Art Newspaper article by Adrian Ellis titled "The Implications of Art Fund Collections Shown in Museums," Mr. Ellis says:
Where to start?
There are several steps that can be taken leading to lending of art works to museums that are organizing exhibitions.
Some museums organize one-time exhibitions or exhibitions that they in turn rent to other venues in a tour. Other museums renting a touring exhibition may organize a supplemental exhibition or add pieces from their own collection and/or those of private collectors to the touring exhibition. Some other venues just rent exhibitions and do not add pieces for a local showing. Individuals can keep abreast of upcoming institutional exhibitions by following listings in TFAO's National Calendar of Exhibitions. The calendar is a way to find titles of exhibitions that are aligned with individuals' collecting style. Some of the listings in the calendar are for showings at organizing museums while other listings are for showings at renting venues.
Since museums plan exhibit months -- and often years -- in advance, looking at listings for exhibitions to be held well into the future is recommended. Sometimes museums create catalogues or brochures that list all of the works in an exhibition. Since catalogues have a substantial lead time for preparation and printing, it may be necessary for a museum to finalize the choice of works in an exhibition a year or more before it is held.
Tours can last for many years. For this reason collectors need to be comfortable having their works out of their possession for an extended period of time. Even though handlers of art works during tours are usually very careful not to damage art works in their care, long tours do increase the odds of damage.
A pleasant way to meet people that can lead to referrals to museum employees organizing future exhibitions is to join supporting councils of museums. There are also independent non profit organizations that track upcoming exhibits, provide opportunities to socialize with collectors with shared interests, and have interaction with museums. One independent organization of this type is the Historical Collections Council of California Art. Sometimes members of museum councils and independent organizations are independent art curators and museum leaders who have thorough knowledge of the types of art works needed for upcoming shows.
When collectors feel that their works might be a fit for upcoming exhibitions they should identify appropriate curators and discuss their interest. If a piece of art is not needed for a specific upcoming show, the curator may ask the collector to provide pictures and information about works in the collection.
Also see Planning, Organizing and Touring Art Exhibitions.
Curators at Museums
Museum curators play a key role in judging the appropriateness of lending art to an exhibition. See Resource Library's Sources of Articles and Essays Indexed by State within the United States for names of museums and art centers in your vicinity. The articles and essays listed for each institutional source provide historical information on the types of exhibits favored by that source and the names of curators for the shows. To learn more about the role of curators, see the Staff page of Museums Explained. In addition to wishing to give public exposure to privately owned art works, museums may also desire to strengthen relationships with collectors to secure future gifts of the art works.
Before art works are accepted by museums into special exhibitions, they may require authentication. For information see TFAO's report titled Authentication and Evaluation of Art Objects.
Prior to art works being accepted for an exhibition they may need to be cleaned or repaired. TFAO provides references for conservation of art works in a page titled Conservation. To learn more about the role of conservators, see see the Staff page of Museums Explained.
In 2004 The Chubb Corporation issued a news release titled "Chubb Provides Tips For Art Collectors Before Lending Art" containing advice to collectors considering lending art works to museums for special exhibitions. Here is the news release in its entirety:
The facilities report referenced in the Chubb article is a standard facilities report. The American Association of Museums Standard Facility Report (ISBN 0-931201-55-1) is often preferred. The blank template for this document may be purchased from the AAM Bookstore (202-289-9127) or through the AAM website. It details the facility's environmental, safety, security, staffing, storage, and exhibition space capabilities and acceptable insurance coverage, specifically naming the lender as an additional insured.
The Arts and Artifacts Indemnity Program page from the National Endowment for the Arts web site explains the program. The Introduction says: "Museums and other non-profit organizations planning temporary exhibitions that involve bringing works of art and artifacts from abroad to this country or sending works of art from this country abroad may be eligible for coverage"
See TFAO's Appraisals of Original Art Objects for information on securing appraisals.
In a book by Michael Reid titled How to Buy and Sell Art, Mr. Reed advises collectors that long term loans of their works to museums can reduce the cost of their home insurance premium when museums agree to insure the works while in their custody. he adds: "Similarly, a long term loan to an established art museum would greatly reduce the security risks and costs, not to mention the burden of appropriate storage."
The Columbia University Libraries created a web page titled "Guidelines for Lending Materials for Exhibition" to explain what is needed to enable the institution to lend its property for exhibition. As an individual collector, substitute yourself in place of Columbia University Libraries to obtain ideas on how to respond to requests for loans from museums.
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