Van Gogh Museum Offers Advice to Collectors in Bid to Raise Funds

The Amsterdam museum says the scheme doesn't raise ethical concerns.

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam
Photo: REMKO DE WAAL/AFP/Getty Images

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has begun offering services to private companies, other institutions, and private collections, including advice on conservation and museum management.

Raising funds is a constant challenge to museums, especially those which, like the Van Gogh Museum, do not receive large amounts of government funding, and to make up for it, institutions often come up with creative ideas to raise funds.

The Amsterdam museum’s latest scheme, however, differs from the majority as its target lies in the private sector.

“Museums are used to a different type of outreach that is more about sharing their knowledge and collection, but not in the commercial, contractual manner,” France Desmarais, director of programs and partnerships for the International Council of Museums in Paris, told the New York Times.

“What’s unique is that they are using their expertise to commercialize, in a sense, but museums have been doing revenue-generating activities for a long time,” she added.

Introduced after after a pilot project two years ago, the scheme will see museum employees spending an estimated 5 to 10 percent of their time working on providing these services, including advising on climate control systems and the development of education programs.

If there is enough demand, new staff will be hired to help with the added workload.

Adriaan Dönszelmann, director of the Van Gogh Museum, sees no ethical dilemma in offering services to private collectors. Yet, for some the scheme does raise questions regarding the advising of collectors who could purchase works from the auction market that could end up on view in the museum.

Dönszelmann, however, told the NYT the museum had no plans to offer that kind of advice.

Vincent van Gogh, Sunflowers (1889).Photo: Courtesy of artnet Price Database.

Vincent van Gogh, Sunflowers (1889). Photo: Courtesy of artnet Price Database.

The museum recently lost a small portion of its yearly public funding of €7 million, which makes a 20 percent of its total yearly budget of $45 million. The museum says profits from sales at the gift shop are also taxed to the tune of around €500,000 per year.

“Museums exchange services, knowledge, tips and so on all the time, and of course it was always in a collegial way,” Dos Elshout, doctoral student in cultural studies at the University of Amsterdam, told NYT. “Now, because of the financial cuts of a few years ago, they have to ask money for services.”

“This is a little bit of where cultural organizations are going,” Robert J. Stein, executive vice president of the American Alliance of Museums, told the NYT.

“Most museums had been in the philanthropy-and-ticket business for a long time and are recognizing that some balance of that with earned revenue sources is a healthy position to be in,” he added.

artnet News contacted the Van Gogh Museum for comment, but had not received a reply by the time of publishing.

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