Are blockbuster exhibitions profitable?

Organize a major exhibition with the intention to sell to other institutions. Publish a large catalog with the Taschen or an other publishing house.
With big name artists a profitable show is achievable. Visitors readily pay a surcharge, and it is easier to find sponsors.
For museums that own big names like Bacon, Warhol or Picasso the lending fees can really make a lot of money.
Photo exhibitions, with the ability to show copies and exhibit from the own collection, are much easier to export. It can be lucrative to make a show that will go on tour. It can also lead to widening a reputation, but costs can only be recovered if the exhibition is shown in two more locations.
Organizing shows often happens in cooperation with three to four other institutions. Collaborating from the beginning. Without partners to share the costs, it’s hardly possible to organize large exhibitions. An institution without collection can never offer something in return, if they ask another museum for help.
Shopping for traveling exhibitions can be expensive. Museums get offered exhibitions on weekly basis. On average they take on a ready-made exhibition once a year.
The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York organized a the Jeff Koons retrospective in 2014. It was a box-office success. They sold it to the Centre Pompidou. It was the most attended exhibition of a living artist in the Paris museum’s history (more than 650,000). This however did not result in a big financial profits. Only through the sale of publications tied to the exhibition, The museum made money.
The French museum made €2.6 million from ticket sales and €320,000 in earnings from the sale of publications. But the Centre Pompidou had to pay a €1.25m lending fee to the Whitney. The museum only broke even with the show. That sad news came from a lawsuit in Paris. The cost of bringing a mega exhibitions like this to Europe is gigantic. There are many associated costs too, such as transportation and insurance. These figures show the hard reality of traveling exhibitions. The Whitney did probably not get rich from it either.
In 2013 the Victoria and Albert Museums must have earned hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The London museum had it’s most visited show in it’s history. More than 1.3 million people have visited the show. That was the David Bowie exhibition. Ninety percent of the objects in the show on loan from the David Bowie Archive in New York. Bowie offered curators full access and they did not pay a fee to borrow the works. Bowie merchandise alone brought in £3.6m in retail sales.
The show traveled to Barcelona, São Paulo, Berlin, Groningen, Chicago, Paris, Melbourne and Tokyo. The V&A paid for shipping and other expenses. The catalogue (in seven foreign languages) has sold more than 160,000 copies.
Although the V&A had high display costs, the borrowing fees will have helped to offset that.
Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors will travel to four major museums in the United States and Canada. When the exhibit opened at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington. The Hirshhorn had to figure out a plan to manage the crowds and to generate revenue from a free show. They decided to ask people to sign up for timed tickets in advance of their museum visit. The first 9,000 tickets were reserved in only six minutes. The museum’s website crashed from demand. They also offered their members direct access to the show. Before the show opened, the museum had grown their membership with twenty percent. Hirshhorn membership starts at $50. It also sold nearly 400 “Contributor’s Circle” memberships for $250 apiece. Higher-level memberships brought in about $12,000. That means an additional $237,000 in revenues came into the Hirshhorn in two months.
The museum will also earn money from the sale of the catalogue that it published with Delmonico Books. The lending fees for the show will no doubt be significant.
The show can be seen in the Seattle Art Museum (June 30–Sept. 10, 2017), The Broad in Los Angeles (October 2017–January 2018), the Art Gallery of Ontario (March–May 2018) and the Cleveland Museum of Art (July–October 2018).

Documenta 14

This time not only in Kassel but also in Athens. 47 locations and with about 200 artists. This edition is led by artistic director Adam Szymczyk and a team of about 18 curators. Other members of the extensive team of curators are Paul B. Preciado and Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung. Learning from Athens is the motto of this edition. Athens long considered as the font of all knowledge, is in recent history more associated with austerity and refugees.

00-documenta-14-athen-rundgang-filopappos-hill-rebecca-belmore-01.jpgGray marble refugee tent  by Rebecca Belmore.


The disasters of War, Daniel Garcia Andujar, The National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST), Athens.


Daniel Knorr squeezes found items from Athens streets into an artist’s book. On the opening day of the Documenta 2017 in that city.


At the same time his work Expiration Movement started exhaling smoke from the Zwehrenturn in Kassel.


The Parthenon of Books, Marta Minujín.

A replica Parthenon made out of metal scaffolding and thousands of banned books. Visitors can contribute to its construction by donating books that are now or at any time in the past have been forbidden.


The Mill of Blood, Antonio Vega Macotela.

reconstructed a slave powered minting machine built by the Spanish colonizers in latin America.


The Living Pyramid, Agnes Denes.

The flowers and plants form a monument to geological time and the natural world.

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Check Point Sekondi Loco, Ibrahim Mahama.

Ghanaian Jute bags where sawn together by visitors to the in Athens to cover the Torwache building in Kassel.


Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 10.58.52.pngBeing Safe is ScaryBanu CennetoğluFridericianum, Kassel


When We Were Exhaling Images, Hiwa K.

Sewage pipes turned into different rooms by students. It reminds of the refugee situation.


Installation of refugee boats, Guillermo Galindi.

Wrecks of refugee boats found at Greek coasts are turned into musical instruments.

Feminist artists on social media

A new generation of feminist artists have found expression on social media. Censorship and a different approach to the female body in the media is their theme, but they are fighting back. They often get blocked but keep pushing the boundaries of art and what is allowed on the various platforms.

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 17.48.54.pngPetra Collins

The Cover Girl of the New Feminism Wave. She founded ‘The Ardurous’, an online platform for female artists showcasing projects. Everything is kinda cute and dreamy with teen girl aesthetics.

amalia-ulman-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqYBEWvMdcMFfUabU60-4H7y6FV4BCuS3wfc64Q_cWH3k.jpgAmalia Ulman

Fooling a large number of people with phony selfies made her a hit in the art world. She mindlessly boasted about her apparently fortunate lifestyle in LA. Attending pole-dancing classes and undergoing breast-enlargement surgery.

ValeriePhillips_Arvida-Byström_04.jpgArvida Byström

Has a fondness for pink and glitter, and often uses herself as a subject. Byström’s art has a subversive, couldn’t-care-less attitude. It combines her ’90s aesthetic with a very modern take on femininity, sex, gender and identity.

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 17.37.26.pngLeah Schrager

Struggle for a different deal with the female body in the media. She looks for the boundaries between commerce and art. She works with different personas and alter egos. She studied the aesthetics of porn sites and staged herself as the prototype of the sexy woman. She offers her body as a commodity to the male gaze. 

nodes_JmKaIlnZpN.jpgJessica So Ren Tang

Explores her identity and cultural heritage through intricate embroidery. She recreates familiar Asian American objects and pinup girls but changes the the meaning by the use of material.

tapuz_i.jpgStephanie Sarley

Shares photos and videos of fruits, which she touches with her fingers. She personifies humorously the origin of the world, as Courbet had formulated it. It is about the acceptance of female sexuality. Her goal is, as she says, “Empowering vaginas”.

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 15.08.28.pngTeen slut

Pink hair, tattooed skin and joint in hand. Alexis Felten developed ‘Teen slut’ on Instagram for her graphic design degree. She and her gang stand out with their 90s-aesthetics.

532013095_780x439.jpgFrances Cannon

The carcters in her drawings have nothing to laugh about. They crouch on the ground, sit there crying, or lie thoughtfully with their arms up. Her work is a celebration of sexuality and femininity.

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 15.01.35.pngMe and You

Founded by Mayan Toledano and Julia Baylis, two of the members of The Ardurous. The movement has its own fashion label. Inscriptions on sweaters make it clear that they do not want to touched without consent.


Shows menstrual blood in panties hanging between her legs while she sits on the toilet. Her work deals with gender and classism, pushing the limits of what is acceptable for a female to do and so forth

Amsterdam Art Fair & Antwerp Art Weekend

The third edition of the Amsterdam Art Fair not to be confused with Art Amsterdam. The name given to Hollands longest running art fair KunstRAI. However recently Art Rotterdam has taken over as the leading art fair. Amsterdam Art Fair aims to make to the Dutch capital the place to go for the collectors again.


Galery Frank Taal

Standno. 12

Representing Bram Braam



Standno. 44

Works by Esther Tielemans and Sarah-Jane Hoffmann


 Juliette Jongma / Kunstverein

Standno. 29

Work by Bert Scholten, Nicolaas Riis, Florian and Michael Quistrebert


Siberian BAM exhibition

Jelle Brandtcorstius, Aldo Van Den Broek and Fabian Hahne

Also for the third time, Antwerp Art Weekend.

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Gallery Sofie Vande Velde

Works of Philippe Vandenberg and Bruce Nauman


Little HISK

Work by Susanna Inglada


Galerie De Zwarte Panter

Work by Fred Bervoets, Frieda Van Dun and Wim De Schamphelaere

Contemporary Textile artists

Many contemporary artists are blurring the boundaries between art and craft. reclaiming techniques and materials that traditionally where not considered for art.

32df8aa71bb5110b75edc32f7b814876Tracey Emin

Emin has made many quilts appliquéd other objects like her famous tent. She collages letters cut out of fabric or felt on old woolen blankets with frayed edges. Hand-written text and drawings are embroidered or printed onto the fabric. 

f-3.jpgRowena Dring

Dring uses holiday photo’s, which are then converted to big canvas images. She uses a painting-by-numbers way, swapping cotton for paint. She uses the traditional female craft of quilt making.

nick.jpgNick Cave

Cave most known for his ‘Soundsuits’. They are costumes, sculptures and musical instruments in one. The artist performs in them with a group of dances. The suits consist of colorful second-hand fabrics. 

7df78fbf14d8211f5c489d330054e26e.jpgIda Ivanka Kubler

Kubler makes bright colored canvases made of hand-painted silk cocoons. The cocoons are recycled after the caterpillars left them wile maturing into butterflies. Kubler meticulously orders them info intricate geometric patterns.

BillieSweetDreams2010.jpgBillie Zangewa

Zangewa’s works are hand made based on template drawings. She expresses womanhood by sewing cut fabrics. She experiments with textiles (principally silk) adorned with embroidery.

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 15.24.46.pngFaig Ahmed

Ahmed creates or rips apart existing rugs. The works look like they are melting, pixelated or flawed. He throws existing designs into disarray. His work explores how two different ideas live together.

larger.jpgFaith Ringgold

Ringgold started working with textiles after visiting the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. She was inspired by traditional Buddhist paintings on cloth. At firsts she collaborated with her mother, a popular Harlem seamstress and clothes designer.

sheila-hicks-knots-colorful-fiber-bundles-for-seance-at-design-miami-basel-designboom-05.jpgSheila Hicks

Hicks works exists of both miniature works as well as large scale sculpture. Her pieces are often made of brightly colored fabrics. She uses cotton and materials like feathers, bamboo, porcupine quills and steel fibers. 

America-Afghanistan-II_888.jpgLisa Wade

Wade creates paintings and sculptures and installations. She makes flags using weathered and stained fabrics with textured surfaces. Sometimes violently painted with strokes of tar.

57th Venice Biennale

So it is that time again every two years the art world descents on Venice to take stock of what is happening. Often political or controversial. It is together with the Documenta (also happening this year) arguably the most important art event of all. In the Giardini park 85 countries are represented. In national pavilions, the Arsenale and the central Pavilion. There are also many other locations to see great art. Too much to see it all, but here is a selection.

30BRADFORD2-master675.jpgU.S. pavilion: Mark Bradford

With the choice of Mark Bradford the curators confront the viewer. With the role of black, gay, and other minority groups. The discrimination, violence and hate people face back in the USA and beyond.

korea.jpgKorean Pavilion: Cody Choi, Lee Wan

The facade of the building is covered in neon signs made by Cocy Choi inside Lee Wan shows video’s. Both explore the relationship between the east and the western world in their work.


Austrian Pavilion: Brigitte Kowanz, Erwin Wurm

From the top of Erwin Worm’s truck the viewer has a nice vantage point over the Giardini gardens. Inside you can become part of the work yourself in his ‘One Minute Sculptures’. Brigitte Kowanz shows works with mirrors and light.

C_e5vj2WsAAOX5F.jpgGerman Pavilion: Anne Imhof

Artist and choreographer Anne Imhof’s new piece ‘Faust’  has the performers sing, dance and maneuver. They stand on plinths above and crawl in the small space beneath the glass floor.

nigeria-r.jpgNigerian Pavillion: Victor Ehikhamenor, Peju Alatise, Qudus Onikeku

In their first-ever pavilion, Nigeria’s show ‘How About Now?’ The show is positioned on several floors. The three artists get the chance to show their work looking at the history of the country and where it is going.

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 10.18.34.pngIcelandic Pavilion: Egill Sæbjörnsson

The show concisest of huge multi-media morphing art installations, sculptures, and music. Man-eating trolls seize the building in a catastrophic way.

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 10.28.11.pngFinnish Pavilion: Erkka Nissinen and Nathaniel Mellors

Political satire and absurd humor are key in this collaboration. A talking egg, videos and sculptures tell unreliable narratives.
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British Pavilion: Phyllida Barlow

The British pavilion is bursting out of its seems with the work of Phyllida Barlow. A larger than live installation of abstract sculptures combined with recognizable forms.

St. Caterina Church: Rachel Maclean

Even though still part of the U.K. Rachel Maclean represents Scotland. With her new film, ‘Spite Your Face’. The church is dominated by the massive video work.

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.07.57.pngAbbazia di San Gregorio: Jan Fabre  

Belgian artist Jan Fabre shows glass and bone sculptures, honoring Venetian glassblowers and Flemish masters.

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.19.06.pngFondazione Bevilacqua La Masa: Lucy McKenzie

Lucy McKenzie’s installation consisting of painted furniture, trinkets, sculptures and paintings. It deals with race and gender. She remarks on the original function of the venue; a domestic house.

james-lee-byars-the-golden-tower-venice-art-biennale-designboom-05.jpgDorsoduro, Campo San Vio: James Lee Byars

This phallic ‘the golden tower’ is one of the works you literately can’t miss at 66 feet it stands on the grand canal.

18422110_1315055501914097_5702494575411270601_o.jpgMondrian Fan Club: Central Pavilion

As part of ‘Viva Arte Viva’ Christine Macel curated David Medalla in collaboration with Adam Nankervis. They create embroideries, drawings, installations and photographs in tribute to Piet Mondrian.