“Sensation” showcased young British artists whose works are owned by British ad executive Charles Saatchi. Christie’s auction house sponsored the show.
Both Saatchi and Christie’s stood to profit from “Sensation,” critics contend, because the public exposure added to the selling power of the artists.
Increasing dependence on private funds has magnified the problem of donor influence on art exhibits . American museums struggle with the problem of depending on private funding while fulfilling their public trust to choose works based solely on merit.
New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art presented a Tiffany exhibit with help from the Tiffany company, for example, and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum had an exhibit on Italian cuisine funded by an Italian food company.
The American Museum Association has appointed a task force to examine the ethical problems of funding, sponsorship and the exhibition of privately held collections. The task force will issue final guidelines in November.
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