Superstar Museums

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Date Submitted: 06/04/2012 02:38 AM

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Corporate intervention and museum branding of superstar museums


Whitney Museum (80s, Thom Armstrong, first museum to open branches, Margery Rubin Cohen) (Wu)

Tate/Tate Modern (Nick Serota) (Wu)



Thomas Hoving - Metropolitan Museum

The first museum which started with branding activities and which welcomed corporations was the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The leadership of director Thomas Hoving from the from 1966 to 1977 was influential and acted as an example for the art world of the 1980s. Hoving had a business background, but had also studies medieval art. As museum director he initiated highly expensive/costly projects, like new wings in the building, ‘blockbuster exhibitions’ and expensive acquisitions, which forced the museum to desperately search for new sources of income. Hoving fundamentally transformed the institution into an entrepeneurial undertaking, and was marketed as “a magnificent mansion providing a never-ending succession of blockbuster shows.” (Chin Tao Wu – chapter: The Institutions of Art)

Tom Armstrong – Whitney Museum of American Art

Hoving’s equivalent of the 1980s was Tom Armstrong, who became director of the Withney Museum of American Art in New York in 1974. Armstrong concluded that the Whitney Museum needed corporate funding to finance its major exhibitions. In his seventeen-year leadership Armstrong succeeded in successful blockbuster exhibitions. Within one decade the attendance figures of the museum doubled.

In the 1980s Armstrong opened four Whitney branches at the headquarters of multinationals. People critically called the Whitney the McDonalds of the museum world. In 1988 the museum became more commercial when it hired a public relations officer, Margery Rubin Cohen, who came from outside the art world and had a background in the marketing and publicity of the fashion and cosmetic industries.(chin tao wu, chapter ‘the institutions of art’)

Nick Serota – Tate Gallery/Tate...