Read the Workshop Conclusions about: Museum Watch Program and Public vs Private


Workshop Conclusions
Stockholm, 4 November 2018
CIMAM 2018 Annual Conference

Day 1: Museum Watch Workshop

Conclusions presented by Suhanya Raffel, Director, M+ Museum, Hong Kong, China, and Board member of CIMAM.


In 2012 CIMAM initiated a series of news publications regarding the different critical situations of Museums and Collections around the world, also in regions affected by world economic and political crises.

The Museum Watch Program that came out of this serves as an advocacy program addressing specific critical situations that impact museum professionals and not-for-profit institutions of modern and contemporary art. We want your help to recalibrate this effort.

→ Institutional situations may be very different in different societies, what are the challenges for Museum Watch in this respect and how can they be met?

→ Museum Watch wants to always consider both sides of the situation, even if it takes longer to react. How can this due diligence be optimised and how can it be related to the wish for rapid information of the CIMAM community and eventual rapid action?

→ The CIMAM board feels the Museum Watch Committee should consider different kinds of appropriate action, on a case by case basis, including confidentially, where nothing is published. What may be actions and how can they best be tailored to the situation?

→ Museum Watch wants to be a supportive and helpful tool for museum professionals. Should it also notify the CIMAM community in cases in which colleagues are involved (for example a public conflict between a director and a curator) and if so which actions might it further undertake?

Conclusions Highlights

Develop guidelines and best practice for common crises and situations.

Develop local knowledge:

  • Reach out to local experts who have knowledge of situations.
  • Have a list of local contacts, non-members, from different professions, that can provide CIMAM
  • proper access to local knowledge, not media.
  • Develop a local delegation of colleagues (other CIMAM members in the city) that offer diversified expertise to help follow best practices, and to clarify if the institution and the director/curator have acted properly in specific institutions.
  • Develop longer-term project resources where a series of case studies are put together.
  • To work in collaboration with other associations and to use its networks to achieve a higher impact. (ICOM, PEN International, The Artist Protection Funds, Arts Rights Justice EU Working Group, Association of Art Museum Directors in North America).

Extended Conclusions

There was a common interest to restate the importance of having a public platform on CIMAM’s website for all members and that CIMAM shows solidarity and gives support to its members at times of crisis and when others reach out to us.

Regional specificity: that the museum watch group acquires another employee in the office to deal specifically with Museum Watch cases or to liaise with local experts who have knowledge of situations that fall beyond the expertise of those within the CIMAM group.

At the same time, some groups given their local context in China, Cuba, and Turkey raised a cautionary note, calling for the ability to turn to an international group of colleagues for support, but to do so in conditions of strict confidentiality.

  • With that aim, pragmatic solutions were suggested:
  • The establishment of a legal fund as a means of support.
  • Guidelines and best practice for some of those situations.
  • A longer-term project resource where a series of case studies are put together, to which all
  • CIMAM members can refer back and use as a learning tool.

Day 2: Public vs Private Workshop

Conclusions presented by Agustín Pérez Rubio, Independent Curator, Madrid, Spain and Board member of CIMAM.


With the proliferation of “not for profit” private museums and the increasing dependency of “public sector” museums on private finance, modern and contemporary art museums are under increasing pressure to service the agendas of the individuals and organisations that fund them rather than the public they were founded to serve. What can museum professionals do to resist these influences and ensure the independence and resilience of their institutions?

→ What are the potential risks in accepting sponsorship from commercial galleries and auction houses?

→ Under what circumstances, if any, should a museum exhibit the private collections of their patrons?

→ How can museums ensure that governance and finance are clearly separate in “not for profit” organisations?

→ How can CIMAM best support museums in maintaining curatorial independence from the external influence of sponsors or patrons?

Conclusions Highlights

Develop guidelines as recommendations about the good governance and best practice in relationship with the role of the board, patrons, private collection donations, etc., in order to safeguard the institution and maintain curatorial independence.

Extended Conclusions

What are the potential risks of accepting sponsorship from commercial galleries and auction houses?

While public funding is being instrumentalized by politicians, we risk losing public trust when credibility is affected by the autonomy of programming.

A few actions were suggested:

  • Artists should be better paid by museums so they are less dependent on the market.
  • Transparency is essential.
  • All information must be made public.
  • We have to clearly define the protocols; agreements must be clear.
  • Correct attitudes based on ethical codes.
  • Documenting the process and decision making.

Under what circumstances, if any, should a museum exhibit the private collections of their patrons?

A few actions were suggested to safeguard the institution:

  • Relationships must be developed with total transparency.
  • Private collections should only be considered in relation to a long-term commitment to the institution.
  • Short-term collection loans are not recommended lest this increase their market value.
  • Patrons or the trustees cannot use the museum for their own interests. Donations cannot be accepted if the patron or trustee imposes a condition to permanently or regularly display the works, lest future incumbents be compromised.
  • To have written protocols of actions or legislation that establish clear parameters.

How can museums ensure that governance and finance are clearly separate in “not for profit” organizations?

Strategies vary according to context. Specific sub-committees for finances and scientific committees are a way of maintaining independence and minimalizing situations of ethical conflict. There is always a danger that political support directly influences museum budget and employment, such as changing a museum director’s contract terms at any time.

In this case, CIMAM should consider developing simple guidelines around good governance and best practice vis-à-vis the role of boards.

How can CIMAM best support museums in maintaining curatorial independence from the external influence of sponsors or patrons?

Today, directors have to deal with all kinds of issues, so the CIMAM conference is a good meeting place for addressing these questions.

CIMAM might also consider establishing regional workshops for information dissemination

regarding best practices, governance, and museum sustainability. A group of advisors with whom members could discuss how to handle problematic situations.

It would be appreciated if CIMAM provides members with examples of good ethical codes used by museums of contemporary art, and for smaller institutions to have a diverse variety of examples and contexts.

CIMAM must advocate for the importance of the curators’ professional experience.