Art Fag City’s Corinna Kirsch wrote an article this week about the Hirshhorn Museum rattling a can full of nickles to fund its exhibition “Ai Weiwei: According to What?” on crowdfunding platform Causes. The museum has raised just $505 of its $35,000 goal since April. Kirsch suggests the crowdfunding failure is due to the relative insignificance of $35,000 in light of the museum’s millions of dollars in endowments.
The public perception of institutions like the Hirschhorn Museum is that they are swimming like Scrooge McDuck in money. Though Joseph Hirshhorn left his eponymous museum millions of dollars in addition to art works, and the museum is included in the Smithsonian museum group, there is still a funding deficit. The Smithsonian museum group writes, “less than three-quarters of the annual budget we need to open our doors comes from federal appropriations. The rest comes from private funds and donations.” The operating costs for museums are astounding, but the breakdown of a museum’s budget, including security, skilled labor (like conservators) and archival materials aren’t readily accessible to the public. Average internet users who give to online crowdfunding platforms probably sees the museum as undeserving of their hard-earned donation.
This doesn’t mean that crowdfunding isn’t worthwhile for artistic pursuits beyond silk-screened prints and Etsy-like fare. Part of the Hirshhorn’s failure may have been its use of the wrong platform; there are new crowdfunding platforms everyday, and Causes ranks low on visibility. The type of people who give to museums probably don’t peruse petition-signing or kitten-saving sites like Causes. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are the largest crowdfunding platforms, and are the most useful for small museums and artists’ residencies. Of nearly 50 Kickstarter campaigns by small, but established, museums to bring special events, put on exhibitions, print catalogs, and expand since 2009, 30 have reached their full funding goal. It is important to note that the majority of successful funding goals are between $1,000—$3,000 and have between 20 to 50 backers.
Both Kickstarter and Indigogo are great ways to help an artist go away to work somewhere beautiful in residency. Though there are only a handful of residency crowdfunding projects on the sites, all with around $2,000 goals, they have all met or exceeded the amount they were seeking. If you are an artist accepted into a residency, transparent about your use of funds, and need help getting to Venice, Iceland, or wherever, people will help you foot the bill.
Kirsch, Corinna. “The Hirshhorn’s Crowdsourcing Experiment.” Art Fag City. 25 September 2012. Web 27 September 2012. http://www.artfagcity.com/2012/09/25/the-hirshhorns-crowdsourcing-experiment/
Make a Gift to Help Launch Ai Weiwei’s Work at the Hirshhorn. Causes. Web 27 September 2012. http://www.causes.com/causes/665466-show-your-support-of-ai-weiwei-according-to-what-at-the-hirshhorn-museum/actions/1645769