Accepted Paper:

Donations from private collections to public museums  


Paul van der Grijp (Universte Lumiere Lyon 2)

Paper short abstract:

The future of private collections depends on the life spans of their owners. The latter may deal with this uncertainty by donating their collection to a public museum before or, by will, after their own death. Museums, however, are not always eager to accept such donations.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is about the relation between private and public collectors. This relation is asymmetrical because private collectors are individuals, sometimes couples, and public collectors are institutions. We could also speak about individual versus institutional collectors, although it is individuals within institutions who take decisions about the extension and other vicissitudes of collections. In the cases of contemporary, modern and ancient art, popular art, tribal art, and other aesthetic forms of material culture public collectors are usually museums. Characteristic for private collections is their dependence from and uncertainty of the life span of their initiator. In most cases a fundamental break occurs when the latter dies. Public collections, however, continue their existence in spite of the death - or the retirement or transfer - of their initiator or administrator (director or curator). Via a donation of their collection to a museum, disquiet private collectors can deal with this uncertainty and may extend the life span of their collection far beyond the limit of their own death. Such a donation, however, may result in another uncertainty since museums, in view of accompanying conditions imposed by private collectors, are not always eager to accept entire collections.

Panel W018
Confronting uncertainty: imagination in art and material culture