Bye-bye, Joseph Roulin!
The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), Melbourne, recently announced that it will be the exclusive venue for a multi-disciplinary installation of some 150 MoMA masterworks, June 8, 2018-Oct. 7, 2018. Fans of the home team are going to miss these heavy-hitters by van Gogh, Dali and Lichtenstein (top to bottom), among many others:
If you scroll down at this link, you’ll see many more players from the A-team who will be AWOL from MoMA. Organizing their Australian road trip is Samantha Friedman, MoMA’s assistant curator, department of drawings and prints.
Is this a rent-a-show deal, designed to enhance the lender’s bottom line at the expense of the borrowing institution? So far, MoMA’s not telling.
MoMA had entered into a rent-a-show arrangement in 2011 with another down-under institution, the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth. Some $6 million in government money supported a series of MoMA loan shows there, according to a statement then issued by John Day, Western Australia’s Minister for Planning, Culture and the Arts.
Also in 2011 (as I reported here), MoMA dispatched a big trove of Abstract Expressionists to the Art Gallery of Ontario and some 100 modern masterworks to the High Museum, Atlanta. The latter was known for paying megabucks for mega-loans.
MoMA tends to be coy about describing its financial arrangements for these shows. I asked MoMA’s press spokesperson how much was being paid for “Masterworks from MoMA” at the NGV and whether the show was financially structured to raise significant revenues (or just to cover costs). I also asked whether MoMA would participate in revenues earned by the show (i.e., admissions, retail) and how much those were projected to bring.
The non-answer to my queries was:
We can’t discuss specific financial arrangements.
Maybe Australian institutions can be more transparent about “financial arrangements,” as occurred with the Art Gallery of Western Australia’s MoMA shows. I have queries pending with the NGV. If I learn more, you’ll learn more.
This masterpiece migration is likely related to MoMA’s planned renovation and expansion, which will cause temporary reductions, if not closures, of galleries. MoMA has already temporarily shuttered its architecture and design galleries, “as part of the first phase of the museum’s expansion project,” according to Martino Stierli, chief curator of architecture and design.
Notwithstanding its need to boost financial resources in anticipation of its next capital project, MoMA should resist the temptation to use its collection as a cash cow. For the benefit of all institutions—whether art-rich, cash-rich, both or neither—loans should be collegial, not rentals.