Vastari Report Unveils Key Details of the $5.9 Billion Museum Exhibitions Market

  • LONDON, United Kingdom
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  • April 02, 2019

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Bernadine Brocker Wieder and Francesca Polo

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    

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.    

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