A TFAO Report: 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

(above: Jervis McEntee (1828-1891). Mount Desert Island, Maine, 1864, oil on canvas, John Wilmerding Collection.  Picture from National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.) Source: Wikimedia Commons - public domain*)



This Traditional Fine Arts Organization (TFAO) report is directed towards the more advanced collector. It is also useful to individuals interested in learning how exhibits are produced.

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 Art.

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 venues 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 venues sometimes tour exhibitions that they have organized, they usually do not manage the touring of exhibitions organized by others. For information on elements of 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 non profit venues. Exhibitions organized by dealers as a rule contain art for sale. In some instances, however, art may be lent to a dealer-organized 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 Library's 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 Explained.



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 subject.

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 of exhibitions.

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 include:

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: 0-7619-9106-9

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: 2-89172-024-5

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."


Return to Research Projects, Reports and Studies

TFAO catalogues:

TFAO's Distinguished Artists catalogue provides online access to biographical information for artists associated with this state. Also, Search Resource Library for online articles and essays concerning both individual artists associated with this state's history and the history of art centers and museums in this state. Resource Library articles and essays devoted to individual artists and institutions are not listed on this page.

*Tag for expired US copyright of object image:

Links to sources of information outside of our web site are provided only as referrals for your further consideration. Please use due diligence in judging the quality of information contained in these and all other web sites. Information from linked sources may be inaccurate or out of date. TFAO neither recommends or endorses these referenced organizations. Although TFAO includes links to other web sites, it takes no responsibility for the content or information contained on those other sites, nor exerts any editorial or other control over them. For more information on evaluating web pages see TFAO's General Resources section in Online Resources for Collectors and Students of Art History.


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