Good business is an art

Lisa Napoli Sep 21, 2007

Good business is an art

Lisa Napoli Sep 21, 2007


Bob Moon: Have I got a job for you. How’d you like to run the National Portrait Gallery? Or maybe the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago?

Those are just a few of the jobs open in the museum world right now. In fact, more than two dozen major museums in this country are looking for people to run them.
More openings than at any other time in the last 20 years. Marketplace’s Lisa Napoli has more.

Lisa Napoli: The problem isn’t just how many museum director positions are open right now.

Jason Kauffman of the Art Newspaper says:

Jason Kauffman: There doesn’t seem to be a very large pool of candidates who can fill those positions.

That’s because of what’s expected of museum administrators: an ability to raise money and manage budgets, as well as manage art.

Kauffman says he talked to one experienced curator who was eager to step into management — who was rejected by 17 museums, because he had no experience in fundraising.

Kauffman: They didn’t ask him first, “What is your vision for the institution?” They said, “How much money have you raised?”

Of course, it’s not just museum directors who are being expected to do this. The chiefs of many not-for-profit institutions are, like college presidents. It can be tough for people with a passion for Picasso to develop a feel for finance and fundraising.

Museum studies professor Selma Holo of the University of Southern California says there’s an art to it:

Selma Holo: What is fundraising? Fundraising isn’t a mechanical thing, where you simply go, and you go to a rich person and you say, “I need your money.” Fundraising is a way of articulating the importance of your institution to society. But not everybody is suited to it.

Holo says there are more programs now where the education goes beyond art history and now involves teaching aspiring curators how to lead, too.

Holo says management and budgetary skills are seen as critical for the future of museums:

Holo: It’s not mystical. It’s learnable. Those who come up with the artistic decisions can also be taught to make the business decisions.

Some people worry that nowadays, too many museums are run like businesses. But there’s always that quote from Andy Warhol. He said being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art.

In Los Angeles, I’m Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.

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