How Do Art Museums Get Their Art?

Art Museums

When you go into an art museum, you may be amazed to see all these beautiful paintings and artwork. If you are like me, you may wonder how they can obtain all their art.

Museums obtain their works of art through a gift, bequest, loan, or artwork purchase. Museums need to acquire artwork through planning and following usually strict processes they have put in place. Whatever they receive, through even a gift, bequest, loan, or purchase, it has to make sense for the overall Museum’s collection.

Below are the basic four ways that a museum will acquire artwork to show in their collections:

Museums Get Art As A Gift

One of the ways that museums get art is they acquire art as a gift. A gift means that someone such as an art collector has some art pieces that they decide to give to the Museum for their collection,

The advantage for the art museum is that they do not need to purchase the art. Essentially they are receiving the art, usually free of charge.

From any of the art collectors or patrons, this is also a good thing for them. They can give it to the Museum, and when they give it to the Museum, they should not be any tax liabilities.

Before you donate to a museum, you need to ensure that the Museum is the right fit for your artwork. It also needs to be able to fit in with the Museum’s current collecting policy. Museums usually have a policy in place of what artwork they will accept and how they will accept it.

Here are some things to consider when giving art to a museum:

  • Suitable for the museum – The piece of art should be something suitable for the museum and fits into the present collection. For example if you have a piece of modern art you may want to look for a museum that specializes in modern or contemporary art.
  • Good Physical Condition – Most museums want to be sure that your art is in good physical condition.
  • Reknown Artist – Art museums like renowned artists.. This doesn’t mean it has to be one of the top or most famous artist, but if you have a piece of art from someone who is well known in your community, you may find a local museum that wants to accept that artwork for their collection.
  • Be prepared – When you contact the museum you should be prepared to supply a photograph and other details of the work so they can arrange for a curator to review the work in person.

The Museum may tell you that your art is not a good fit; you may want to ask them if they know of any resources or museums they would recommend that you contact. Some art foundations are set up to help people donate works of art and get them into suitable museums. The Museum may know about any of the art foundations in your area that may help you donate your artwork.

The main reason people give works of art to the Museum is goodwill; they want to be sure that others can enjoy the skill or they may want to be sure the Museum will protect the art and place the art in a proper location.

One of the most important and immediate ways to benefit a museum collection is to make an outright donation of your art during your lifetime and give it to the Museum without any strings attached. By doing this, you will see the goodwill of how your art benefits the public.

Musuem’s Get Art As A Bequest

Another way that museums get art is through a bequest. A bequest is a property given through a will; a person will put into their will the request that specific works of art be bequest or given to a particular museum.

Even if you bequest your artwork to a museum, you still need to go through the same steps as you would if you give the art to them. You would need to know that it fits into the Museum’s collection and would be something that the Museum wants.

The important point is that most museums have specific things they want to show and certain things they may not.

That is because the Museum needs the entire collection to fit together. Just because you have a piece of art you want to bequest to the Museum, it does not mean that the Museum will accept it. In short, for the Museum to receive a piece of art, it needs to make sense for its comprehensive collection.

Museum May Loan An Artwork

Another way that a museum may obtain artwork is to show it through a loan program. They can loan the art from an individual, a collector, or even another museum. The advantage of this is that they can often receive some high-quality works of art without purchasing them and permanently displaying them in the Museum.

It also allows the Museum to display some fantastic works of art to a community that would usually not have the chance to see them. I remember many years ago I went to an exhibition at the Brigham Young University Art Museum. The Museum had brought in some of the work of the famous Danish artist of the Christus statue named Bertel Thorvaldsen.

I know the artwork they were showing was on loan from a museum in Denmark; the special exhibition generated a lot of interest within the community. I remember waiting in line to get in and being amazed at the number of people attending the exhibition.

You often see museums with works of art on loan from another museum, a collector, or an individual. It allows the Museum to help generate interest that usually they would not develop in any other way.

Of course, if you were looking to loan a piece of art to a museum, you would need to look at the legal documents involved with the loan carefully. You want to be sure that nothing in the papers could be an issue or problem.

Museums Purchase Works of Art

Sometimes the Museum will purchase a work of art. For works of art to be purchased, it has to make sense for the art museum. There is an entire process that they will need to follow to decide what works of art the museums will purchase.

Purchasing works of art can be highly costly for a museum. Most museums need to be very frugal and thoughtful about which works of art they will purchase.

To discover more about how a museum purchases works of art or the process they may go through, you can read our blog about How Do Museums Buy Art From Private Collectors? by clicking this link.

These are the four main methods a museum will use to obtain art to exhibit in their art museum. All of these methods have one thing in common – whether a museum receives the artwork as a gift, bequest, loan, or purchase – the artwork would need to make sense for the Museum’s collection.

I am very thankful for art museums. Art museums inspire me and help me to be a better artist. Anita Louise Art is dedicated to art education, great artists worldwide, and inspiring others to find and create their art. We look at all kinds of art that are made to uplift and inspire. #ArtToMakeYouSmile! #ArtToMakeYouHappy!

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Related Questions

How Do Art Museums Choose What To Exhibit?

Art museums choose what they want to exhibit because of costs, budget restraints, and space restraints. They want to show art that the public wants to see and exhibitions the people are willing to pay an entrance fee to attend. A museum also exhibits those works of art that align with its mission and vision.

By clicking here, you can learn more by reading How Do Art Museums Choose What To Exhibit?

The Important Role Of Art Museums In The Art World

An art museum will help to collect and preserve works of art. They also interpret the art and help to educate us all about art. Many art museums will have programs that will allow you to even experiment with different types of art. The core role of an art museum is to inspire us about art.

You can discover more by reading The Important Role Of Art Museums In The Art World by clicking here.

Anita Louise Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Louise Hummel. I am an artist and a blogger. I paint mainly oil paints. I love to paint women, animals (mainly dogs and cats), and abstracts. I use a lot of gold and silver leaf in my paintings. I also love to blog about anything to do with art, business, Procreate, and all the wonderful artists that inspire me.

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