CREATIVE LEGACIES: Private collectors are as crucial as ever to the survival of our public galleries


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Creative Legacies and the legacy of private collectors

I was eager to read an article which acknowledges the enormous contribution of private collectors in building public art collections. However, it soon became apparent that only one kind of private collector is honoured here - the wealthy collector, or as stated in the article "significant." I hoped that some of the pressing issues associated with the transfer of private works/collections would have at least been touched upon. Art institutions are facing critical shortages of storage, forcing them to reject (and possibly not even consider) wonderful donations, and this problem is growing exponentially as ageing baby boomers with "significant" artworks process their estates. While some donors, as noted in the article, solve this problem by opening their own galleries, this is obviously not an option for the vast majority. Previous donors' legacies are under threat in various ways - works which require preventive maintenance or treatment work may be left indefinitely on storage racks, awaiting conservation treatment which is so rarely funded. What of yesterday's donors - is not the very definition of legacy an act which stands the test of time? Frederick Mendel's descendants have been stung by the renaming of the Mendel gallery (to the name of a current donor) - this dishonourable act is painfully ironic in an article about donor's legacies. The private collector of an artwork of national and even international importance could be anyone - the descendent of the artist, an inheritor, or a savy, even visionary buyer with impeccable timing. I would argue that the significance of the artwork should primarily drive the collection process, not the perceived "significance" of the collector, which, as we've seen, is subject to change over time. Curators need to be supported with adequate housing for collections and funding of preservation activities. This is not to detract from the contributions of those with considerable means. In fact, this kind of collector is well-positioned to build associated legacies - how about the funding of a building extension to increase and upgrade storage, or the creation of a maintenance and preservation budget - these contributions could just as easily carry the generous donor's name - in perpetuity I would hope.

Cyndie Lack more than 4 years ago


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