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Gallery Collections

March 16, 200816 March 2008

Special Issue: Visual Arts Summit

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How does a nation acquire and display its art collection? Collections policies were discussed at length at the Summit.

Some participants perceived a danger in galleries’ reliance on donations of works of art from collectors. “Building a collection in this manner is fickle and relies on the tastes of a few individuals. What if they don’t collect art by women or aboriginals?”

The allocation of acquisitions budgets to public galleries was seen as key. “Acquisitions tend to suffer from budgetary constraints because exhibits must go on. Exhibitions are the top priority and therefore get the funding, not acquisitions.” Some participants indicated that there should be a collection fund for institutions and collection strategies for key art museums. Others perceived a lack of curatorial expertise in relation to collecting.

One participant summarized five key challenges for public galleries:

  1. Adjusting to evolving art practices which, in some cases, cannot be collected.
  2. Documenting intangible works of art.
  3. Being pro-active about collecting.
  4. Making better links between permanent collections and exhibitions.
  5. Art publications are thin in Canada.

What are the implications of media-based collections? Participants indicated that there are insufficient resources for the preservation of media-based artworks. What happens in 20 or 30 years when current technology is no longer available?

DOCAM (Documentation des Arts Mediatiques), hosted by the Langlois Foundation, is researching the preservation of media artworks. They are currently three years into a five-year project involving museums and universities in case studies to examine “disappearing” works of art and how museums can manage them. The Tate Modern in London, England has a committee working on this issue full-time.

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