Image? Business? Prestige?

Cooperation between museums and the world of finance

By Zsolt Vasáros, architect

The connections of the financial world with culture, and within that the relations with museums across different countries – or, if you prefer, across different cultures – are varied in volume and character. In the USA there are numerous examples of museums being built from both private and bank resources. There are such cases in Europe, too, but on a more modest scale.

The past practice reflects a wide-ranging, sometimes utilitarian, sometimes prestige-based ingenuity whereby banks search for possibilities of cooperation with museums and public collections, and occasionally with privately established galleries. In Hungary there are banks which have substantial collections, though they are used primarily to decorate their offices and public areas. Is it that cultural management is lacking, or that the collection itself is not suitable for display, or that the banks can’t match the large public and by today mature private collections? Or does the problem involve the cooperation? It’s clear that very serious professional work, decades of experience and successful organisation is required for partnership and interaction to be created with the traditional museums participants. Only the truly wealthy financial institutions can expand a collection, enlarge an exhibition space or simply establish a new institute. In Hungary the banking sector is struggling to make a profit and in recent times has been hit by various taxes imposed by the state, so it is a question as to when and how it can donate significantly to culture, and within that to the positive development of museums.

It’s also a question as to when and how the large-scale, ambitious plans for museum development, which appeared following the 2010 elections, will come to fruition – or rather whether they will even get to the threshold of being realised. The following two years or so, then the next elections and the EU cycle of financing will be very interesting, certainly from the perspective of Hungary’s museums.