Setting up an artist foundation
Sharing her experience of setting up the Henry Moore Foundation with her parents in 1977, Mary Moore said: “We set about quantifying everything in the estate. On 28th January ‘77, we gifted land, 11,000 works of art comprising sculpture, drawings, lithographs and prints, all Moore’s tools from chisels and mallets down to my mother’s old saucepans used for mixing plaster, Moore’s massive library of books, catalogues, collected since 1941, and his entire archive and working records, which the artist had collected methodically throughout his career.”
Rudy Capildeo outlined the legal framework of setting up a foundation, looking at the Henry Moore Foundation model, as well as alternative examples of Bridget Riley and Lucien Freud. He said: “When you are setting up a foundation, it’s always important to make sure you involve the right people. You need to have members who will provide the right expertise required to fulfil your duties for the foundation.”
The contemporary gift for national benefit, Part one
In part one of the session, artist Michael Craig-Martin and Richard Noble, Head of the Department of Art at Goldsmiths, looked at the important role of the artist as philanthropist. Richard Noble said: “There are three ways in which artists might tend to be philanthropists. One is gifts to public institutions that have significance to their legacy as artists; another is setting up foundations…and the third would be charitable giving, which is a very pervasive activity that artists engage in.”
Emphasising the relationship between giving and one’s legacy, Michael Craig-Martin said: “When the artist is gone, the thing that’s most important is whether one’s work is available into the future. The only way that can truly happen is through public institutions…”
The contemporary gift for national benefit, Part two
The second part explored how artworks enter public collections. Sarah Philp, Head of Programmes at the Art Fund, outlined the organisation’s crucial role helping public collections to acquire works of art: “Simply put, our aim is to get more great art to more people, and in doing that, help museums to realise their own ambitions.”
John Leslie, Exhibition Project Manager at the National Portrait Gallery and Natasha Howes, Senior Curator at Manchester Art Gallery, looked at the example of Van Dyck’s Self-portrait. After four centuries in private ownership, the work was successfully purchased by the National Portrait Gallery in 2015, with the support of the Art Fund. It is currently touring galleries across the UK, including at Manchester Art Gallery.
Working with collections and archives
This session looked at the value of working with collections and archives, with speakers Emily Butler, Mahera and Mohammad Abu Ghazaleh Curator at Whitechapel Gallery, James Green, Director of Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange, and Dr. Valerie Johnson, Director of Research and Collections at The National Archives.
Emily Butler said: “All the work that we show is borrowed, or is site specific. We are offering a unique opportunity for work to be seen for the first time by the public, or to show work that’s not usually shown…In that sense, we are giving a gift to the public. It’s also a gift to us a hosting institution.”
James Green spoke about Roger Hilton’s centenary exhibition Newlyn Art Gallery, highlighting the important role of loans from private collections. He said: “One of the real values of working with private collections is you can make connections between individual pieces of work which are not normally available”.
Emphasising the unique and crucial value of the archive, Valerie Johnson said: “To appreciate art truly and deeply in all its richness and context, we also need other information…Only with the archive is art fully meaningful, curated and structured.”
How has the art market impacted on the politics of the gift?
Chaired by Mark Waugh, Head of Research and Innovation at DACS, this panel brought together speakers from different areas of the art world to discuss how changes in the art market have affected public collections.
As co-Director of the Tate’s public collection, Ann Gallagher said: “Of course the art market has really affected our ability to build the collection, but in a way, what’s affected it even more is the funding situation.” Outlining the spectrum of ways in which this challenge is met, she highlighted the role of artists and their estates in gifting work to their collection, as well as the Outset/Frieze Art Fair Fund, which enables Tate to buy artworks by emerging artists at Frieze Art Fair.
Loretta Würtenberger, Director of The Institute for Artists’ Estates, emphasised the mutual benefit of gifting artwork to public collections for estates and museums, and the importance of relationship-building between the two parties. Simon Sheikh, Senior Lecturer in Curating and Programme Manager at Goldsmiths, highlighted the more tenuous relationship between young artists and public institutions: “You have a lot of very young artists who are immediately part of the market, part of collections, but not part of the old, institutional inscriptions of the art world.”
“It’s not just acquisition funds that are a problem,” said Kirstie Skinner, Director of Outset Scotland. “In Scotland, the problem is the capacity to engage with artists and to go out research potential acquisitions. If we can find ways to make that more possible and introduce artists into collections and find ways for them to work with collections, then there might be the possibility of the artist having their own initiative in terms of what they select for a collection...”
All photos © Brian Benson, 2016.