Last month I discussed the need for all of us to help ‘spread the word’. It is important that when the opportunity arises, we all lend our assistance to exhibits that will further the reputation of the artists or period we enjoy and collect. This month I will attempt to give you some pointers on:
Does it bother you when visiting an exhibit – either at a museum or a gallery – and the works on display do not compare to works in your own collection? I know it bothers us and many of our friends! All too often we walk through an exhibit and say: “we just sold a far more important work by that artist” or, “we own a much better example”. The real question is: How does one get a work of art they own into a major exhibit? While there are a number of answers, many times it is just pure luck!
Museum curators are constantly looking for exhibitions that will interest the public and bring more visitors to their institution. Often they turn to ‘packaged exhibits’ – shows that are being offered by firms, corporations or other museums that create and ‘rent’ them. Sounds kind of funny … a packaged show … but think about it, this ‘one-stop shopping’ approach affords many smaller museums the ability to offer their patrons a wide variety of scholarly exhibits. Considering the high costs associated with producing a specialized show and the fact that today museums are fighting for every penny they can get, this is often a very economical way to go.
But, what about the works in those shows … where do they come from? Good question! A number of these ‘packaged’ exhibitions are from specific museums or corporations and it is more than likely that the works are from their permanent collection. Many museums have extensive collections in specific areas and it is easy for them to use those works to create ‘packaged traveling shows’– it is a nice way for them to gain additional name recognition and income. Large corporations also have the resources to create packaged shows relating to their specific business and then offer these exhibits to others … a great way for them to obtain press and spread ‘their’ word!
There are also a number of firms who specialize in marketing ‘packaged’ exhibitions. These firms either work with the museums or corporations marketing their packaged shows; or create interesting exhibits that have been culled from either a single source (like a large private or public collection) or from a variety of sources. While researching this topic I contacted Matt Leininger at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art for a list of the larger firms in this field; among them, ExhibitsUSA was kind enough to respond to an e-mail I sent. Lin Nelson-Mayson, the firm’s director, informed me that their firm regularly borrows works from private collections to include in touring exhibitions and gave me a little insight into the formation of an exhibition. Lin stated that “exhibition proposals come from many sources, including museums, galleries, and private collectors. The strong proposals are reviewed in the spring by a National Exhibition Advisory Panel. Over the summer, budgets and descriptions for the successful proposals are developed to be included in the ExhibitsUSA catalog that is published in the fall.” Exhibits remain in their catalog for a couple of years while they look for interested venues … once enough interest is shown they begin to develop the exhibit. These tours can last for 2 – 3 years while the individual works are normally borrowed for 3 – 4 years – allowing time for examination, prepping and dispersal at the end of the tour.
I know the next question - what does the collector get for loaning their work for such a long period of time? According to Lin, the “collectors are generally not paid for the loan; however, curators and essayists working on the exhibition may receive a $1 - $2,000 stipend for their participation.” However, I believe that in the long run the collector receives the greatest reward … their works, which are often discussed in the text, become more important which, in turn, helps increase their value and marketability.
If you want to read more about ExhibitsUSA I suggest you take a look at their web site: www.exhibitsusa.org. You can also visit the web sites of several similar firms: American Federation of Arts; Trust for Museum Exhibitions; Art Services International; and Smith Kramer.
Now, what about the works in your own collection? If you own important works by important artists, and you would consider loaning them to museums for exhibitions, you need to let someone in the field know that they exist; but how? Here are a few options.
The first is to create a list of museums that specialize, or have a track record of producing exhibits, in the period you collect. Then contact the curators and acquaint them with your collection, as well as your interest in possibly loaning works for future exhibits.
Your second option is to create a list of scholars who are regularly asked to write the essays for museum exhibitions (this is easily accomplished by looking through old exhibition catalogues). Once you have a list, write to each of them explaining the works in your collection and your desire to loan them should they fit any future exhibits they are working on.
The third option is to contact a dealer who specializes in the period of art you collect and let them know of your interest in exhibiting your works. Dealers are often contacted by museums and scholars when they are sourcing works for a show. As one of the leading dealers in the world of 19th century European art, we are often contacted when scholars or museums are looking for specific works that may be available for exhibition purposes. When a request is received we contact the current owners of work/works to see if they would be interested in participating. If you currently have a good relationship with a dealer, then you should let them know that you would be open to this.
For those of you who do not have a ‘current’ relationship and may be interested in loaning works to museums exhibitions; our gallery has decided to create a database of 19th and early 20th century Academic works that are in US private collections. If you own an important work that falls into this period - c.1850 – 1930 - and would consider loaning it for a museum exhibit, please contact us with the following information - a complete description of the work or works (artist, title, size, etc.), an image and all your contact information. We feel that this will be a convenient way to make many unknown works available to scholars and will help further the study of European academic art from the late 19th century.
Please keep in mind that all the information we receive will be held in strict confidence! If a work in the database is requested by a museum or scholar for inclusion in an exhibition or book, we will contact the owner to obtain their permission to officially offer the work … we will then either act on behalf of the owner (if they wish to remain anonymous) or provide the necessary contact information to both parties.
As I have said in the past, allowing your works to be studied and possibly included in future scholarly exhibitions can be a win-win situation for everyone.
Howard L. Rehs
© Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City - November 2003
Gallery Updates: Since our last update we have added a number of exciting paintings by the following artists to our site: Louis Aston Knight, Henry Victor Lesur, Édouard Leon Cortès, Alfred de Breanski, Jr., Eugene Galien Laloue, Antoine Blanchard, and Sally Swatland.
Virtual Exhibitions: This month we have added two wonderful works to Rehs Galleries: A Visual History. The first is a grand example of British Victorian genre painting by Alexander Mark Rossi titled May I Have This Dance? The second is a small, finely detailed Orientalist painting by the French academic artist Charles Theodore Frere titled A Caravan Crossing the Desert. Both paintings are magnificent examples of each artist’s work; I am sure you will enjoy seeing them:
Alexander M. Rossi - May I Have This Dance?
Charles T. Frere - A Caravan Crossing the Desert
Since our last update we have sold a number of paintings by many of our favorite artists. Images of most of these works have been added to their respective Virtual Exhibitions; among them were: Julien Dupré’s Glaneuses (Paris Salon 1880), Jules Dupré’s A Quiet Afternoon, Louis M.de Schryver’s Apres l’averse; Place du Théâtre Français, Victor Marais-Milton’s Playing Cards, Felix Schlesinger’s Feeding Time, Paul Blondeau’s Waiting for the Ferryman, a number of works by Édouard Cortès including: Boulevard de la Madeleine, Place de la Bastille, and Porte St. Martin, as well as a number of works by both Antoine Blanchard and Sally Swatland.
Next Month: I will explore the possibilities of loaning a specific work from your collection to a museum for a short period of time.