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US Art Museums Prioritise Growth over Revenues in 2016

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With museums seeking to attract a bigger, wider and more diverse audience, budgets for marketing, digital and interactives are increasing with at best ill defined payback strategies.  Operating costs have raced ahead of fundraising revenues.  The net result for US art museums has been an increase in visitors but a decline in visitor spend per head and the need for staffing cuts, reports The Observer.

US Art Museums: Construction and Expansion

Meanwhile, directors of US art museums are keen to make their mark on institutions with that new extension or gallery to attract visitors.  New expansions opened in 2016 include:

  • Portland Art Museum in Oregon (the Rothko Pavilion)
  • the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in California (the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art)
  • the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • the Dallas Museum of Art (the north entrance)
  • the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky (the 62, 500 square-foot new building)
  • the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockland (new building)

Under construction are:

  • the Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts
  • the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Washington State
  • the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College
  • the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
  • the Mildred Lane Kemper ArtMuseum at Washington University in St. Louis
  • the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (a 22, 000 square-foot conservation center)
  • New York’s Museum of Modern Art (on the next door site of the now demolished American folk art museum)

So is bigger always better?  Not in the short term at least.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art set a new attendance record in fiscal year 2016 but generated a $10 million general operating deficit resulting in a freeze on new appointments, job cuts and an addition to the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing being delayed.

Image: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Is Bigger Always More? How U.S. Museums Fared in 2016

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Rachel Reed

Rachel Read

Rachel is Finance Director. She has a degree in engineering from Cambridge University and qualified as a Chartered Accountant at Deloittes in London. She worked in finance in industry for twenty years. She oversees our news and also manages our events.

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