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How can Europe’s cultural institutions establish financial sustainability under the shadow of COVID-19? Even as major museums across the continent began welcoming back visitors in mid-summer, they did so cautiously and with severely reduced capacities. The need to generate revenue from newfangled digital initiatives is widely-acknowledged, but remains a work in progress.

Another long-term source of revenue for prominent European museums has been overseas collaborations and the opening of satellite museums. In this regard, few markets hold greater appeal than China. Beyond the benefit to museum balance sheets, these partnerships present Chinese audiences new cultural experiences they might otherwise not have — a point that gains importance at present with international travel restricted. They also offer Chinese institutions a chance to exchange ideas and engage in training programs.

Here, JT breaks down four European cultural institutions with established business collaborations in China.

 

Victoria and Albert Museum, London 

China deal: After years of discussions with China Merchants Shekou Holdings, a state-owned urban developer, V&A co-launched the Design Society in 2017. Located in Shenzhen, the museum is located in a vast cultural and commercial complex and has hosted two major touring exhibitions from London. The V&A is said to have profited nearly $2 million across the first four years of the partnership.

What V&A says: “The V&A’s role as a founding partner in establishing Design Society was to help establish a new cultural platform at the heart of a manufacturing and creative megacity. Our partnership plays an important part in ensuring the V&A is financially sustainable.” Statement from V&A.

 

Tate, London

China deal: In 2018, Tate sent “Landscapes of the Mind”, a collection of Turner, Constable, and Gainsborough masterpieces to Shanghai Museum. With 615,000 visitors in 14 weeks, it ranks as the museum’s best attended exhibition of all time. The success may have inspired the museum’s 2019 agreement with Shanghai Lujiazui Group to offer training, expertise, and three exhibitions for the developer’s Pudong Museum of Art, set to open in Shanghai next year.

What Tate says: “The project with Pudong Museum of Art has been developed over a period of time. The project will help Tate reach Chinese audiences and deepen our understanding of the rapidly growing Chinese art world.” Statement from Tate.

Kerstin Mogull (left), Managing Director, Tate; Bao Shuyi (right), Vice General Manager, Lujiazui Group. Image: Tate © Ben Fisher

 

Centre Pompidou, Paris

China deal: A decade of negotiations led to “Centre Pompidou x West Bund Museum Project”, which opened in Shanghai in 2019 — the Parisian institution’s third satellite location. Located on the west bank of the city’s Huangpu River, an area that has quickly become a bustling cultural hub, Pompidou has pledged to send exhibitions from France for the duration of its initial five-year contract. Centre Pompidou receives in excess of $5 million per annum from the deal.

What Pompidou says: “Our foremost ambition is to be able to show and share the sheer wealth of our collections and to provide our Chinese counterparts with our expertise in running museums and outreach. Being established in Shanghai also provides an opportunity to explore non-Western forms of modernity.” Serge Lasvignes, Centre Pompidou, Paris, President.

 

Uffizi Gallery, Florence 

China deal: In 2019, the Florentine institution agreed to a five-year exhibition partnership with Hong Kong cultural authorities, the first time it has struck a long-term deal with a foreign institution. Beginning this year, the Uffizi will begin sending exhibitions to museums run by Hong Kong’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department, a move driven by forward thinking director, Eike Schmidt, who has stressed cultural progressiveness since taking over in 2015.

What Uffizi says: “Sharing expertise with the world is central to our mission, and we look forward to bringing some of the best of Italian art to Hong Kong and its visitors.” Eike Schmidt, Director of the Uffizi Gallery.

Hong Kong Museum of Art. Image: SCMP

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Museums & Cultural Institutions