Planning, Organizing and
Touring Art Exhibitions
- "Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts,
the book of their deeds, book of their words, and the book of their art.
Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others,
but of these three the only trustworthy one is the last."
- John Ruskin
This report is directed towards the
more advanced collector. It is also useful to individuals interested in
learning how exhibits are produced.
Traditional Fine Arts Organization (TFAO) encourages individuals
with extensive collections to consider publicly exhibiting important art
works from their collection. The owner may be the heir of the estate of
an artist or a person who has collected extensively 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
curation. The owner may also wish to add to the monetary value of art works
in the collection 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:
- There is, of course, nothing new in museums borrowing from and displaying
the works of private collectors. The development of art museums' collections
throughout the world can only be understood in the context of the relationship
between private collectors and their complex motives on the one hand and
museum administrators' desire to harness those motives for the pubic good
on the other. Directors, administrators and curators are acutely aware
of the symbiotic relationship between public access to works of art that
may not otherwise be seen, studied or enjoyed, and the private interest
of the collector -- sometimes wholly venal, sometimes wholly altruistic,
and usually a deeply conflicted mix of the two.
TFAO's publication Resource Library contains two informative essays on one collector's
thought process in planning and organizing two innovative exhibitions. They
are Sharing Your
Paintings -- or --"It's Better Than Selling Hot Dogs" by Thomas Davies and An American
Art Collection in Hong Kong also by Mr. Davies. Collectors may enjoy
reading about museum exhibitions of other private collections in TFAO's
listing of Collections of Historic American
Most exhibitions are held at only one venue. Venues include
commercial galleries, museums and art centers plus many other types of facilities.
Some exhibitions, however, are organized for touring to multiple venues.
See Resource Library's Museums Index for names of American
museums and art centers. See the Academies, Associations,
Ateliers and Societies Index of Resource Library for names of other non-profit
organizations which may originate or present exhibitions.
Some museums and art centers have the ability and staff
to organize exhibitions held at their own facility. Others host exhibitions
organized elsewhere. Some institutions have the ability to plan and manage
exhibition tours. While museums sometimes tour exhibitions that they have
organized, they usually do not manage the touring of exhibitions organized
by others. For information on the elements to planning and executing an
exhibition see the Exhibitions section
of Museums Explained.
Major art dealers may have the capability to organize exhibitions
that are of sufficient quality to be toured at museum venues. Exhibitions
organized by dealers as a rule contain art for sale. In some instances,
however, art may be lent to an art dealer exhibition by individuals whose
art is not for sale. Some commercial galleries and dealers are members of
professional associations such as the Art
Dealers Association of America, Private
Art Dealers Association, Fine Art Dealers
Association, and the National Antique
& Art Dealers Association. There are also many statewide and even
citywide art dealer associations. The associations can refer persons interested
in lending art to a member.
Before art works from a collection are accepted for an
exhibition they may need to be cleaned or repaired. TFAO provides references
for conservation of art works in TFAO's page titled Conservation.
Curators at Museums
Museum curators may be of substantial help in judging the
appropriateness of an exhibition and further assistance. See Resource
Sources of Articles and Essays Indexed
by State within the United States for names of museums and art centers
in your vicinity. To learn more about the role of curators, see see the
Staff page of Museums
There are dozens of professional organizations that provide
in-depth assistance in the organization and touring of exhibitions. Consultants
specialize in the types of clients they serve, including institutions and
collectors, by scope and budget of a project, type of client, and exhibition
MuseumsUSA maintains a list of over 1,000 consultants and vendors, many offering
specialist services relating to exhibitions, including a "Traveling
Exhibition" category containing the names of both commercial and non-profit
entities that offer services related to the planning, organization and touring
An additional way to identify organizers and touring advisors
is to go to the Web sites of museum organizations to identify their annual
conclaves and commercial exhibiters. The largest of these associations is
the American Alliance of Museums. Several
states have their own museum associations. See the website for National Association of Museum Exhibition
(NAME) which is the AAM Standing Professional Committee on Exhibition.
You may find useful the articles within TFAO's Resource
Library to identify organizers of exhibitions harmonious to your interests.
Resource Library articles usually identify the organizers. Search the TFAO Website using keywords such as the
names of professional exhibit planning and touring organizations.
Once you have identified prospective consultants, discuss
your project with them. Inquire about referrals if their service is not
aligned with your needs.
Some professional exhibit planning and touring organizations
- American Federation
Of Arts; The New York, NY
- Curatorial Assistance
Traveling Exhibitions; Pasadena, CA
- Exhibit Envoy,
San Francisco, CA
- Exhibits USA; Kansas City,
Curators International; New York, NY
- Landau Traveling Exhibitions,
Los Angeles, CA
- Smith Kramer, Inc.;
Kansas City, MO
TFAO does not recommend or endorse any specific organization
providing organization and touring services.
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 theft of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch's masterpieces,
The Scream and Madonna, from an Oslo museum will lead to greater precaution
by museums, cultural institutions and private art collectors lending art
overseas, according to the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.
- "Many private collectors lend their art because
it can increase the value of the object," says Dorit Straus, Chubb's
worldwide fine arts manager. "However, safety standards vary by museum
and country, and overseas loans can be particularly complicated because
of additional transit, customs regulations and foreign laws."
- Below are 10 tips from Chubb, a leading insurer of valuable
articles such as art, antiques and jewelry, on how collectors can protect
themselves against potential losses when lending works of art overseas:
- Is the work of art stable to withstand travel? While
the curator may want the work of art because it is important to the context
of a show, the museum conservator is key in determining the stability of
the piece to travel. Ask the conservator to provide a fully detailed condition
report before the work has left your possession.
- How will your work of art be displayed? Ask about security
cases, security screws, location of the objects in relationship to visitor
flow, and distance from the viewing public.
- Will the museum travel the exhibition, including your
work, to other facilities? If so, obtain the same security-related details
for every location where your work would be displayed.
- Ask the museum for a facility report and for information
about its security systems and procedures.
- Obtain specific information about the museum's insurance
policy. This is especially important overseas, where many state-owned museums,
such as the one housing the Munch paintings in Oslo, do not purchase insurance
covering theft and other perils. Is the coverage wall-to-wall and would
it respond to terrorism-related losses? Which company underwrote the insurance
policy, and what is its financial security? Has the museum not addressed
certain recommendations made by the insurer, and if so, what impact may
that have on coverage if there is a loss?
- Is the exhibition insured through the U.S. Indemnity
program? This program authorizes the Federal Council on the Arts and the
Humanities to make indemnity agreements with individuals, non-profit, tax-exempt
organizations and governmental units for eligible objects from other countries
while on exhibition in the United States. Ask for detailed information
about the requirements of the program.
- Have an updated appraisal completed for your work to
establish an accurate current market value. An over valuation will cause
the museum to pay for more coverage than it needs. Under valuation will
complicate the insurance adjustment process, particularly in the event
of a partial loss.
- Obtain details on the labeling and identification of
your artwork. In addition, make sure that there are no issues about the
title or authenticity of your work.
- Notify your insurance company, agent, broker prior to
lending. Ask their advice prior to waiving any rights of subrogation against
the museum, packer or shipper.
- Ask about the packing and shipping of your piece from
your home to the museum. Will the museum use storage facilities while consolidating
the shipments? Obtain full details about fire and burglar protection for
the storage location.
- Make sure that the loan agreement that you receive from
the museum specifies all the requirements that you had negotiated when
you agreed to loan your work.
- About Chubb The member insurers of the Chubb Group of
Insurance Companies form a multi-billion dollar organization providing
property and casualty insurance for personal and commercial customers worldwide
through 8,000 independent agents and brokers. Chubb's global network includes
branches and affiliates in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and
Australia. The company is noted for its Masterpiece® line of personal
insurance products for homes, autos, watercraft and valuable possessions,
including antiques, jewelry, fine arts and other collectibles, as well
as personal and excess liability protection.
Lending of individual art works
For collectors who wish to lend individual art works to
an exhibition see TFAO's Lending Art to Museums
for Special Exhibitions.
For further reading:
- Developing Museum Exhibitions for Lifelong Learning, Gail Durbin;
Stationery Office Books, 1996, 0-112905-52-8
- Evolution of an Exhibit, The, Ruth Freeman & Paul Martinovich;
Ontario Museum Association, 2001, ISBN: 0-920402-30-5
- Exhibitionist, published since 1981 by National Association
of Museum Exhibition (NAME) in the Spring and Fall of each year
- Exhibit Labels: An Interpretive Approach, Beverly Serrell; AltaMira
Press / American Association for State & Local History, 1996, ISBN:
- Exhibition Planning & Management: Reprints from NAME's Recent
& Recommended, Sara Dubberly; American Association of Museums,
2000, ISBN: 0-931201-54-3
- Exhibitions in Museums, Michael Belcher; Smithsonian Institution
Press, 1992, ISBN: 1-56098-324-8
- Exhibits for the Small Museum: A Handbook, Arminta Neal; American
Association for State and Local History Book Series, ,ASIN: 0910050236
- Good Show! - A Practical Guide for Temporary Exhibitions, 2nd
edition, Lothar P. Witteborg; Smithsonian Institution Traveling
Exhibition Service, 1991, ISBN: 0-86528-007-X
- Manual of Museum Exhibitions, The, edited by Barry Lord &
Gail Dexter Lord; AltaMira Press, 2001, ISBN: 0-7591-0234-1
- Museum Exhibition :Theory & Practice, David Dean; Routledge,
1997, ISBN: 0-415-08017-7
- Museum Management Program, National Park Service: Bibliography
- On the Road Again: Developing and Managing Traveling Exhibitions,
Rebecca A. Buck & Jean Allman Gilmore; American Association of Museums,
2003, ISBN: 0-931201-85-3
- Standards Manual for Signs & Labels; American Association
of Museums / Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1995, ISBN: 0-931201-37-3
- Text in the Exhibition Medium, edited by Andrée Blais;
Société des musées québéco, 1995, ISBN:
- Thinking About Exhibitions, Sandy Nairne, Bruce Ferguson, Reesa
Greenberg; Routledge, 1996, ISBN 0415115906
- Art: Live and on Tour: 18 minutes, 1990. "This lively and
informative video explores the teamwork and commitment behind the making
of the exhibition Impressionism: Selections from Five American Museums,
a collaborative effort of the Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh), the
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas
City), the Saint Louis Art Museum, and the Toledo Museum of Art. The program
answers such questions as: How do 5 museums team up to plan and promote
a major exhibition? Who chooses the works of art, and how are they packed
and shipped? How is the exhibition space redesigned to accommodate these
works, and who decides where the paintings will hang? How will the exhibition
be promoted and interpreted for the public? This engaging program takes
viewers on a tour behind the doors of 5 American museums to look at the
people and jobs involved in creating a special exhibition." (text
courtesy Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)
- Sharing the Dream: Brian Lanker Photographs - Black Women Who Changed
America: 45 minutes, 1989. The Michigan Museums Association Video Lending
Library says of the film"Brian Lanker spent two years developing an
exhibition documenting 75 African-American women who changed America. This
video explores the creation of the exhibition and the photographer's vision,
frustrations and triumphs as he carried out the project. This video provides
a chance to see how the exhibition developed behind-the-scenes as well
as opening night at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. in 1989."
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