In the 21st century, the private museum has become a cultural, social and economic phenomenon of global scale. Over the last twenty years, a fulsome landscape of successful modern-art institutions has been created by collectors, even businesses, with noteworthy examples being the museums of François Pinault, as well as foundations affiliated with leading fashion brands. Closely tied to their founders’ tastes and visions, private museums are often derided as “trophy sepulchres” or expedients for tax purposes, and yet the actual situation is far more nuanced and complex.
This overview –which Georgina Adam arrived at after researching more than fifty private museum entities in the United States, Europe, China and elsewhere – combines hard facts with the declarations of those directly involved, tracing the underlying motives and implications of the boom. Why do collectors create their own facilities instead of donating works to local institutions? How do they finance them? Are these nothing more than vanity projects or are they genuine philanthropic initiatives? With great acumen, the author explores the thin line between personal ambition and public good, providing a glimpse of individuals and scenarios both controversial and intriguing.