Museums brace for storm as donors shy away

Wed Apr 1, 2009 9:05pm EDT
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By Sylvia Westall

VIENNA (Reuters) - Two million euros in three months: that's the cost so far for Vienna's Albertina Museum, home to landmark Impressionist works by Monet and Renoir, as the financial crisis pulled some of its most generous sponsors.

Museums and other cultural institutions globally are being pinched, scaling back exhibitions and cutting staff to cope with shrunken endowments, thriftier benefactors and cuts in state funding. Some are closing.

"It's going to get harder and harder," said Elizabeta Petrusa Strukelj, head of European museums network NEMO.

"Museums have been at the back of the queue for government money for years, so we know how hard it is already. But the crisis will have an impact on the whole field and on our culture," she said, pointing to unfulfilled plans for national museums in Slovenia as just one example.

The Albertina serves to illustrate how the financial crisis is reversing a trend of museums globally riding a wave of private sponsorship to grow.

Its 200-year-old collection, including works by Pablo Picasso and one of the world's biggest sets of drawings, had benefited from the boom as the wealthy poured in donations.

Held up as an example of a successful business-minded gallery, now its exposure to the private sector has hit hard.

"The financial crisis has affected us enormously," director Klaus Albrecht Schroeder said from his office in the Neo-Classical palace, rebuilt after World War Two bomb damage.   Continued...

<p>People pass the Museum for Modern Art MUMOK at the Museums Quartier in Vienna March 25, 2009. REUTERS/Herwig Prammer</p>