From host venues to exhibition producers, insurance and shipping, global study reveals trends on partnerships and deals
- • 55,000-‐80,000 museums worldwide
- • 140,000 exhibitions annually
- • $180 billion worth of insured exhibits
- • $57,000 average cost of show
A new detailed study, the Vastari Exhibition Finance Report – Market Size Analysis, values the global museum exhibitions market at $5.9 billion, equivalent to almost 10% of the entire global art market. The report builds on the Exhibition Finance Report released in October, showing that this vast area of activity covers around 140,000 exhibitions a year, with an average cost of $57,000 per show excluding shipping and insurance, yet has received scant attention as a commercial sector until now. The Exhibition Finance Report itself has also been updated, and now includes new findings on how budgets are segmented between Art and Science exhibitions, differences between institutional approaches in the EU and North America, issues concerning insurance and a number of market trends.
Vastari, a unique interface linking museums, collectors, exhibition creators and the private sector, commissioned the report to analyse the state, scope and trends of global museum exhibitions. The report makes a number of revelations that should help those active in this sector to plan more effectively and target more fruitful partnerships. It looks into why institutions host or tour exhibitions, what their budgets are, who they will and won’t establish partnerships with, what their priorities are in setting up those partnerships and what they expect from such ventures. “What this report does is to use extensive data to expose business trends within the touring exhibitions market,” says Vastari CEO Bernadine Bröcker Wieder, who launched the company with COO Francesca Polo in 2012. “This will not only save organisations time and money, it will also help them better target partners and budgets, assess risks, such as that for co-‐producers, as well as help them shape the nature and content of the exhibitions they put together.”
With a total insured asset value globally each year for exhibitions at around $180bn, getting it right has never been more vital, especially for institutions funded from the public purse. Vastari estimate that there are an estimated 55,000-‐80,000 museums worldwide, of which the largest 20,000-‐35,000 account for the bulk of spending on touring exhibitions. The report, which focuses on the activities of 20,000 members of ICOM (International Council of Museums), surveyed more than 500 institutions between August 2017 and July 2018 before comparing the results with Vastari’s August 2018 marketplace data on over 350 travelling exhibitions. It found that on average museums hold around seven exhibitions a year, with the largest museums staging 2.5 times as many as the smallest. Together they account for $440 million in shipping and insurance premiums, equivalent to roughly 7.5% of the entire global exhibitions annual budget and about 0.06-‐0.1% of the asset insurance value. About $330 million of this is spent on shipping and about $110 million on insurance.
“We took into account government indemnity in our assessment of the insurance market for exhibitions and, after speaking with the insurance industry about our findings, we realised that the value to insurance premium ratio was really low, meaning institutions are generally getting a very good deal,” explained Francesca Polo. “Shipping is three times as expensive as, but people are more concerned about using specialists for handling than costs because the assets in question are irreplaceable. So they’d rather they were handled well than focusing on replacement value.”
What motivates host institutions? One of the main areas the report targeted was what motivated institutions to host travelling exhibitions and to create and tour them themselves. For hosts, the opportunity to include new material for display and attract a wider audience was the most important factor, with building their public profile and reputation a close second.
Things get more complicated when it comes to money. While hosting institutions are less concerned about the profitability of touring exhibitions, they are keen to cover their costs, and this can influence decision-‐making when it comes to striking a deal over paying for setting up an exhibition and sharing ticket revenues.
Cultural and political factors also play an important part. Because many institutions rely on public money and do not see themselves primarily as commercial enterprises, they are less likely to go into partnership with commercial exhibition producers.
Vastari found that when collaborating, about a third of institutions in Europe and North America exclusively work with other non-‐profit institutions.
“This shows how important it is for commercial producers of exhibitions to have a clear and deep understanding of their market, or they risk wasting a great deal of time and money targeting the wrong potential partners,” says Bröcker Wieder.
Another reason for institutions to eschew private producers is because of curatorial control and expertise.
“A lot of the private producers tend to work with turnkey solutions, whereas a lot of museums want more input to the content and how the exhibition will be adjusted to their venue,” says Bröcker Wieder. “Private producers have a very different approach to marketing exhibitions, such as using social media and tend to be less academic.”
Vastari have identified the traditionally uncommercial attitude of museums in this respect as one of the most important areas of debate moving forwards. And they have also noted differences between US and European institutions on this front.
“US institutions are more entrepreneurial, are privately funded and have smaller operating budgets. Fund raising is a much more central to day-‐to-‐day activity,” says Polo. “In Paris, on the other hand, institutions will strictly divide the commercial from the academic. The concept that you could have some crossover is really contentious.”
While making decisions almost entirely based on the content and purpose of an exhibition can help them retain the purity of their academic credentials, refusing to consider budgetary or income-‐generating factors can reduce an institution’s versatility and ability to manoeuvre, argues Bröcker Wieder. “It’s a highly sensitive area and all parties must tread carefully.”
Vastari found that this is a less contentious subject for those negotiating over science exhibitions compared to those concerned with fine art. At the same time, they noted that while art exhibitions have higher value objects and tend to be more logistically complicated in terms of loan negotiation and insurance than science exhibitions, art institutions tend to have lower average hosting budgets.
What about budgets? The report also reveals that the biggest budgets don’t necessarily go with the largest institutions, but noted that no institutions with average hosting budgets over $50,000 work exclusively with exhibition producers.
“Vastari’s study had to take into account a whole series of variables that can affect who will work with whom, how easy it is to strike a deal, where the balance of control will lie and how joint projects will be funded and the profits shared,” explained Polo. “The resulting report unveils a pattern of behaviour among institutions that helps hosts and partners plan better and more accurately target their activity. This oils the wheels and should help the sector grow, because it means every dollar spent has the potential to create a better yield financially and creatively for either party.”
Museums wishing to set up a touring exhibition to enhance their reputation and make money need to know where they are more likely to find hosting venues, what those hosting venues will expect and how to negotiate the most advantageous deal.
They do not want to waste time approaching institutions who either do not have the budget or space to accommodate them, would not co-‐operate easily on how the exhibition is presented, or would not share ticket revenues where that was deemed necessary. Targeting the right partners is just as important for exhibition producers, particularly if they are commercial operators, as so many institutions will only work with non-‐profits. Vastari’s report can help guide them too, not just in finding the right size institution and geographical location, but also in developing an understanding about which potential partners are more likely to be flexible over budgetary and curatorial terms.
Although the data in the report is anonymous to subscribers, it is not to Vastari, which means it can help target partnerships with much more precision for its clients, while protecting their confidentiality. You can subscribe to the report at www.vastari.com
Bernadine Brocker Wieder CEO and Co-Founder
She was a founding member of the team at Trinity House gallery on Maddox Street in London. Prior experience includes working at Traffic Creative Management and Ralph Appelbaum Associates New York. Bernadine is a member of the Professional Advisors to the International Art Market, the Association for Women in the Arts and the Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars. In 2018, she was selected for Apollo’s 40 under 40 Europe.
Bernadine holds a Master’s degree in History of Art and Art-World Practice from Christie’s Education/University of Glasgow and a Bachelors from Parsons School of Design, New York.
Francesca Polo COO and Co-Founder
Francesca started her career at the commercial galleries in Italy. In London she gained further experience at Christie’s and the British Museum. She has an art history background with a Post Graduate Diploma and a Masters from the Courtauld Institute, specialising in Early Modern European Art, and a Bachelors in Aesthetics and Philosophy from the University of Milan. She and Bernadine were shortlisted for the Natwest Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2017.
Francesca is a guest lecturer at Sotheby’s Institute of Art and is training to become a coach for sales representatives and small business owners at the Coaching Academy.