Monday, 27 July 2015

Money Matters: The Art Fund and How it supports Museums and Galleries

Money Matters: UKRG Summer Event July 2015
The Art Fund and How it Supports Museums and Galleries
Penny Bull, Senior Programmes Manager, Acquisitions, Art Fund

This talk was given during the Money Matters event at the Design Museum. The event involved talks on many different area of museum funding by people who work both for museums and with museums in a financial capacity. This talk was the only one given by a member of a body specifically designed to fund museums and was therefore a great insight into how they approach applications and how they function as an organisation. The talk was given by Penny Bull, the senior programmes manager for acquisitions for the Art Fund. She went into great detail on the acquisition side of what the Art Fund does as well as talking about other areas of work that the Art Fund supports and funds, many of which I was unaware of before this talk.

Penny started the talk by giving some background on the Art Fund. It was originally founded in 1903 as the National Art Collection Fund, as a charity aimed at stopping art leaving the country. It is funded primarily by its members and offers grants for museums and galleries to support collections in three main ways, firstly through funding acquisitions, secondly by encouraging public engagement with collections, and thirdly by supporting curatorial activities.

Penny then went on explain the types of acquisitions and projects the Art Fund supports, how to go about applying, and the process after an award has been made. The Art Fund can fund purchases of any objects considered visually interesting, as well as works of fine art, however if the Art Fund does not think your proposed acquisition falls into their remit Penny said they will often try to point you to other sources of funding so it is always worth contacting them.

In order to apply to the Art Fund the applicant must be accredited or working towards accreditation, however there are occasions when the Art Fund may consider other organisations as well if they can demonstrate that they work to the same standards as accredited museums. The organisation must have a permanent collection that is open to the public for at least half the year, for at least half the week during that time. There is no limit on the total value that can be applied for so works of both local and national significance can be considered.

There are three types of application that can be submitted to the Art Fund, “large”, “small”, and “time critical”. Acquisitions over £15,000 (of which the Art Fund could contribute £7,500) are considered large and those under that value are considered small. Time critical ones are for purchases that must happen within seven days within London and 10 days outside of London (for example where an object is being sold at auction). Trustees must view any work to be purchased which can be problematic on tight timescales.

Small requests can be made at any time and the decision will usually be made within 4-6 weeks of the application being submitted. Large grant requests must be considered at the Board of Trustees meeting meaning there are regular deadlines for applications, though these are not published. There is no limit or suggestions on how much can be applied for, however the Art Fund ask applicants to find as much money are they can from other sources, and provide evidence of what other grants or funding has been applied for. This is due to the fact that they have limited funds and of course want to help as many causes as possible.

The application for a grant must contain certain specific information. Firstly, a case must be made for the acquisition of the work, including showing how it will fit into the collection and what the museum will do to maximise exposure of the work. Next the applicant must get an independent valuation for the object by a dealer or someone with proven commercial knowledge of the market. They applicant must also look into getting tax remission or a museum discount on the purchase to obtain the best possible price. The funding package must be set out clearly stating the various sources of funding and these must total the amount needed. The final section of the application should contain provenance information and due diligence checks and condition reports for the object. The objects must also be suitable to travel as they must be present at board meetings so they can be inspected by the Trustees.

After an award is made the Art Fund require a vendors invoice to be submitted along with the accession number assigned to the object and a photograph. After a year a review must be submitted detailing what had been done with the object in the year. This should include information about any marketing or promotion that was agreed as part of the application, however if a work has been in conservation for the year (for example) that is not a problem as long as progress has been made.

As well as funding acquisitions of objects the Art Fund also funds other projects and museum work. One example of this is the new collecting awards that are given to curators who wish to build a new collection within a museum and would like funding for multiple purchases or research for the collections. Touring exhibitions are occasionally supported, but mostly only as part of the promotion for an acquisition funded by the Art Fund.

The Art Fund financially supports museums through the Jonathan Ruffer curatorial grants. These grants are awarded to curators or other museum staff to facilitate research through funding travel, books or administrative cover for time away from their usual job. They are typically £200- £2000 and can also be used to cover the associated costs of professional development opportunities such as training and networking events.

As well as funding museums directly the Art Fund has also set up a crowdfunding platform called Art Happens. The Art Fund provide the web platform and support but the individual museum must provide all the content for any funding requests.

Overall Penny’s talk was extremely useful in providing a background on how the Art Fund works, the way to approach filling in an application and the information they look for from potential applicants. It was also very interesting to see the different types of work the Art Fund supports as well as acquisitions which I have always assumed was their main focus.

I am very grateful for the bursary provided by Blackwall Green that allowed me to attend this fascinating event, and of course for the UKRG who organised the day itself.

Hazel Shorland, Assistant Registrar, Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Income Generation for free collection displays - Money Matters event 17th July 2015

Money Matters
UKRG Summer event, 17th July 2015
Location: 1.5 Gallery, Design Museum, London

Income Generation for free collection displays
Eleanor Suggett, Assistant Curator of Collections, Design Museum

The Money Matters event began with a presentation looking at the challenges facing Museums and Galleries in developing creative, sustainable ways to generate income. Eleanor rightly pointed out that while it may not be the be-all and end-all, money undoubtedly plays a big part in what we can and can’t do.

Increasing pressure on budgets are affecting the whole sector, with worrying consequences. The Museums Association's Cuts Survey 2014 revealed that one in ten responding museums and galleries considered financially-motivated disposal in the previous year.

This session looked in detail at the ways in which the Design Museum have sought to generate sustainable income in order to fund collection displays. As you would expect from a museum dedicated to the display of enterprising and provocative design, some of the new proposed revenue streams involve some very exciting ideas.

To provide some background, the Design Museum is an independent, medium sized museum operating with around 65 staff. A registered charity, the museum receives no formal financial support from the Government relying instead on the generosity of individuals, companies, charitable trusts and foundations to help fund its programmes. Over 95% of museum running costs are generated from admissions, membership, trading, donations and sponsors.

In 2016, the culmination of a £80m capital project will see The Design Museum relocate to the former Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington ( The move represents a significant cultural, and well as geographical shift. Joining the ranks of London’s ‘Museum Quarter’ will undoubtedly mean a change both visitor demographic and overall numbers. In it’s first year the newly opened Museum expects to welcome over 500,000 visitors - a big increase on the 2013-14 figure of just over 167,000.

Eleanor advised that in order to develop ideas for income generation, the museum began by asking itself some key questions –

• Do we know our current and future audiences well? Can we predict what they want?
• How much time can we feasibly commit to looking at collection income streams?
• Do all teams understand the importance of fundraising?
• Do we have in-house experience/expertise to maximise on?
• Can we evaluate what we are doing now?

Out of this self assessment came a number of new ideas for income generation, capitalising on the momentum that will come with the opening of the new Museum building and the increased audience reach.

Moving forward, the museum will be commissioning a number of retail items inspired by the collection to be sold in the shop. A large percentage of the profits from these items will be ploughed back into the collections budgets. In addition, there will be also be 10 photographic commissions on the theme of possessions. These thought-provoking images will be available as limited edition prints in the shop and the museum will also be selling the rights for reproduction to a potentially wide range of outlets.

One of the more unusual ideas for product ranges involves developing several limited edition objects to be available in the museum shop and online. This all sounds fairly run-of-the-mill until you introduce the additional concept of a having a specially built machine in the gallery space itself, manufacturing these objects in front of visitors. The idea is that visitors will be able to ‘commission’ their own customized versions of these objects, fostering an invested interest in what they are creating.

Touring exhibitions are an important source of income for the museum with two exhibitions staff working solely on the creation and administration of such shows. The currently touring ‘A Century of Chairs’ exhibition ( has generated over £65,000 worth of income. There is a strong commitment to both making the collection work for the museum and opening up access in order to open up dialogue.

Many thanks to the UKRG and Blackwall Green for the travel bursary which allowed me to attend this event.

Siân Millar, Assistant Registrar, Manchester City Galleries