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the mixed future of museums around the world

By Harry Bellet

Posted today at 00h17

“When the museum was closed, the objects were sad, they had hangovers! ” Unexpected, but nice reflection from Hamady Bocoum, archaeologist and director of the Museum of Black Civilizations in Dakar (Senegal). Unexpected, because he was speaking at a symposium (available on YouTube) organized online from November 16 to 18 by the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the New York University Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), which brought together some sixty peers . Directors of large institutions, researchers, experts planked on the necessary adaptation of museums in times of pandemic, and reflected on their future: it was more a question of closures and layoffs, sometimes massive, than unfortunate works of being hidden from the public eye. looks.

Even if Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg (Russia), wished to recall that museums are first and foremost collections (adding: “This is what sets us apart from Disneyland! “), it was above all debated about new audiences, their sometimes contradictory expectations, and what new technologies could bring, which, even if most agreed that they do not replace contact with works, appear to many to be a quick fix.

Read the interview with Bruno Monnier, founder of L’Atelier des lumière (November 2020): “Digital technology is an opportunity for culture, not an adversary”

Between 6% and 30% of museums, depending on the country, will have to close permanently, the most affected area being the United States

Except that we do not know, or poorly, how to monetize them, and that the financial situation of museums is catastrophic: according to Peter Keller, director of ICOM, the International Council of Museums – an NGO founded in 1946 which brings together nearly 45,000 members in 138 countries – some will not survive: between 6% and 30%, depending on the country, will have to close permanently, the most affected area being the United States, where the majority of these institutions are under private status. A third of museums, especially in Asia and Africa, expect to lose half of their income.

Read the article (September 2020): Museums weakened by the cessation of tourism and health measures

Works to pay the bills

This is confirmed by Max Hollein, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), in New York. He estimates his losses over two years at 150 million dollars (126 million euros). Her institution is not in immediate danger, it benefits from an endowment fund of $ 3.4 billion, which generates annual revenues of about $ 200 million.

Read the article (November 2020): Covid-19: American museums lost nearly $ 30 billion

The large state museums are not at risk of bankruptcy either, like the Louvre – which still loses 10 million euros per month of closure – or the Reina Sofia, in Madrid, whose director mentions, for his part, a budget cut by 40% (its own resources now dried up) and speaks of “Disaster”. But this will not be the case for everyone, to the point that museums, especially in the United States, have started selling works from their collections to pay the bills.

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