The Global Power of Private Museums. Arts and Publics – States and Markets
This article is part of the TRAFO series “Emerging Topics. Insights from ‘Behind the Scenes’”. Today, we put the spotlight on the International Symposium “The Global Power of Private Museums. Arts and Publics – States and Markets” that takes place in Berlin from 16-18 November 2017. It is organized by the research program Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices at the Forum Transregionale Studien Berlin, the Centre for Art Market Studies at Technische Universität Berlin. Please find more information and the conference program here.
Julia Voss and Dorothee Wimmer are two of the conveners of the symposium. Julia Voss is honorary professor for art history at Leuphana University of Lüneburg and currently Fellow at the Lichtenberg-Kolleg – The Göttingen Institute for Advanced Study. For ten years, she was the visual arts editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and deputy head of its cultural section. Recently she returned to academia with a book project on the Swedish pioneer of abstraction, Hilma af Klint. She has published widely on contemporary art, exhibitions, museums and the art market. In 2016/17, she was a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. Dorothee Wimmer is director of the Forum Kunst und Markt / Centre for Art Market Studies which she founded in 2012, together with Bénédicte Savoy and Johannes Nathan, at Technische Universität Berlin. She was Fellow at the Centre allemand d’histoire de l’art in Paris and at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. Her research and publications explore the history, theories, and practices of art collecting and the art market as well as the relationships between art, politics, and economics.
Why did you organize the conference “The Global Power of Private Museums: Arts and Publics – States and Markets”, and what are you hoping to achieve?
Julia Voss: Private Museums are completely understudied. In recent years, museum studies have done a great job to explore public museums. In contrast, private museums seem to be in a blind
spot. This is even more astonishing as one after the other is popping up. Like mushrooms! There are more private museums worldwide than public institutions.
Dorothee Wimmer: The majority of these museums are in China, South Korea, the US and Germany. Nevertheless, private museums have also been established in Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, India, Indonesia, Russia, Turkey and the Ukraine, among other countries worldwide. But what are the backgrounds, mechanisms and consequences of this global phenomenon? At our conference, participants from different disciplines, institutions, countries and continents will come together to explore and discuss these challenges and dynamics in our contemporary global art world.
What are the questions you want to raise, and what are some of the discussions you would like to encourage?
DW: The key questions are: Do private museums cooperate with, compete with, or take the place of state/public institutions? In this context, we seek to encourage discussions about the roles that geopolitics and the mechanisms of the art markets play in the development of these collections. And we would like to know how this “global power of private museums” affects the process of preserving and establishing artists and specific art forms.
JV: Yes, so far, our image of the private museum is blurry. Is there such a thing as a typical private museum? Is the Arnault’s Foundation Louis Vuitton in Paris representative? We are interested in a taxonomy of the private museum landscape. There are a lot of different species out there. What do they stand for? Are they competitors to the public museum? And if, yes, who is likely to survive?
Based on the topics and questions that have been debated so far in this research field: How could transregional perspectives enrich the debate?
JV: We would get a very distorted picture if we only looked at the private museums next door. On the one hand, it is important to see how museums work in their regional habitat – and then compare these environments. The phenomenon of the privatization of museums is a very global development. Loans travel transregionally, exhibitions travel transregionally, as do curators, art historians, dealers, art advisors, visitors and collectors.
DW: On its website, the Global Private Museum Network claims that the “long term ambition is to […] secure for its members recognition of their key role in not simply showcasing but defining what counts as the art of our time”. We should then reflect this in its dimensions and consequences for the cultural heritage in a globalized world. For instance, are there regional, national or country-specific differences in the current boom of private museums? And if so, are these rooted in historical, geographical, political, social, economic or cultural causes? Finally, what is the role played by foreign cultural policy practices and cross-border incentives of international art exchange programs and global initiatives in this context? For all these reasons, the cooperation with the Forum Transregionale Studien and its research programme, Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices, will be very enriching to the debates at the conference.
Citation: The Global Power of Private Museums. Arts and Publics – States and Markets. Interview with Julia Voss and Dorothee Wimmer, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 14.11.2017, https://trafo.hypotheses.org/8181.