How Do Museums Buy Art From Private Collectors?

Buy Arts

When you go to an Art Museum and see all the incredible art displayed, many people wonder how a museum gets all this art? Do they buy it from private collections?

The art museums will purchase art with an art council working together with the art museum curators to decide what should be bought and why this work of art should be bought. The curator will usually present to the council why the museum should acquire a specific work of art and how that artwork is essential to the museum’s success.

As purchasing art costs money, many museums prefer to acquire art through gift or bequest and only buy what they know will add to a collection or overall museum success.

Ways Museums Acquire Art

There are two ways that an Art Museum would acquire works of art. One way is that the art is a gift or bequests or the artworks are purchased.

A gift is something that to given to the museum voluntarily. Usually, no money is exchanged, and someone will say I want to give this to you; a giver may stipulate some conditions to the gift.

A bequest is that the art is left in a will to a museum. Someone may have a work of art they want to enjoy until they die. Once they die, they will put the bequest in their will to give the work of art to a specific museum.

The final method is that the museums will purchase the art from a private collector. There is a process that most museums need to go through to buy art.

Museums and Purchasing Art

Museums are like almost any other business. They can only buy or purchase what they can afford. And what they are buying must make sense for their comprehensive collection. If a museum is going to acquire a work of art, they need to understand what they’re going to purchase and why, and also, they must have the funds to buy it.

This is why most museums do not purchase works of art as much as they will show pieces of art that are gifts or bequests. Buying art for a museum would need to make sense and help and add to the museum somehow.

The Process Museum’s Use To Purchase Art

Each museum may have its own setup or rules to decide how and what art they will purchase for their museums. But in general terms, the way the art is purchased will usually come about in a few ways.

Museums will have a process in place and rigorous protocol on making a purchase or acquisition.

Here are some ways a museum will help to ensure their acquisition makes sense for them:

Art Councils Or Patrons

Many art museums will set up an art council. These councils are made up of volunteers who often pay a hefty fee to be part of the council. They are art patrons who are wealthy enough to donate to the museum if needed to help with an acquisition.

The fee they charge to be on the council also helps the museum know that those are serious. Museums have different rules for the amount they charge and the kind and type of people they look for in the council. The people on the board would usually be art patrons who are seriously committed to helping ensure the museum is successful.

Art Council Meets With Curators

This art council will meet with the curators a few times a year to propose or discuss possible acquisitions. The curator would give a presentation to make their case as to why they feel this particular art acquisition would be a critical addition to the art museum.

A good curator is someone who has their eyes open and knows which artwork may be up for sale and at what price and by whom. An art curator must have their network, sources, and knowledge to understand its sale and why.

The curator and art council will develop a list of artworks they want to acquire and why. The point to this is that the board will work with the curators and other people in the museum to help decide what work the museum should purchase and why.

This is not a decision that is left up to just one individual or one group, but it is a process that requires some consensus between the council that can be seen to represent the public and the curators and museum.

Part of a good curator will also be to know if there are people in the community or other places who have works of art they may be willing to give or bequest to the museum and work to ensure that does happen. This is important as for most museums, their ideal way of acquiring art is by gift or bequest and not purchase.

A good curator is very valuable to a museum as they have the knowledge and contacts to help ensure its success when it comes to art acquisitions.

Museums Fundraising And Galas

Many museums will hold an annual fundraising event to raise funds for the museum. Many of these events are high-priced dinners where wealthy companies and individuals will sometimes purchase tables for hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is a way for the museums to raise funds while the rich show their support for the museum.

One of the most famous Galas or fundraising in the world for a museum is the MET Gala. The Gala is a fashion event to earn money for New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Many of the biggest stars from Hollywood and beyond will attend the MET Gala.

A ticket for the MET Gala is about 30,000 USD per person. With 500 to 600 people attending the event, the MET would earn a minimum of 13 to 15 million USD for the event. This money goes mainly to help fund the MET’s costume department. But the MET Gala shows the power of a successful museum fundraiser.

There is no doubt that many art museums are struggling to stay open with their doors shuttered due to the pandemic. Many have had to close their doors or lay off personnel. Now more than ever, art museums will have to rely on the help of wealthy donors, fundraising, and other events.

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

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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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How Do Museums Buy Art From Private Collectors?