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Thursday, 15 November 2007



Very nice article. One other comment is the lead time necessary for an exhibition; years rather than months.


Former museum employee, independent work for museums, and married to a museum directer.

Thanks Ken.
That answers part of my query on the story about the Joel Meyerowitz exhibition and exhibitions in general at http://www.typepad.com/t/trackback/2472056/23106638

If anyone can put some figures to a photo exhibition or details on does the photographer get paid for anything?

The only thing I know is that an agency such as Magnum charges £x for an exhibition but I don't know if that is just for supplying X number of prints or whether they supply the images framed. I had also heard from a gallery assistant that the gallery was paying an amount per day to have a particular exhibition.

Thanks again.


I have an acquaintance who loaned his collection of artifacts to the Smithsonian for a number of years. Upon return they were worth considerably more given the distinction of being displayed at the Smithsonian. I wonder what the added line to the description of a photograph, "Displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute in Chicago, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art" would be worth... a bit more than "academic recognition and retrospection" I suspect... certainly worth a little wracking of the nerves?



There's a large article in last month's PDN that talks about the same thing.

"There's a large article in last months PDN that talks about the same thing."

I'd be interested to read that--do you remember the name of the article? Is it available on the PDN website? I couldn't find it there....

Mike J.

My bad - it was the Sept. issue, all dedicated to the fine art business. The article is called "Show Business" I believe.

Nice piece ken,
All I can say is I'm glad you guys got it (AIC) and not the MCA......giggle giggle.

I enjoyed it twice and it's one of the few photo exibits that was hard to ruin with people stanging in the way of the image. They actualy worked kind of nicely with some of them. Bigger ain't always better in my book and usually worse, but it was a treat to see those pics in all their ginormous glory.

@Bron: Thank you for adding that comment! I was meaning to mention that aspect of museum exhibitions. Even a simple exhibit can require a year or more of planning. (The Jasper Johns GRAY show currently at the AIC required over four years of planning.)

This breathtaking delay is generally the consequence of two factors. First, and sometimes most significantly, there's gallery space. The amount of space available for transient shows (versus permanent collections) is limited at every museum. Scheduling for these spaces is quite tight, similar in logistics to scheduling parking space for guest cars ...where the guests plan to stay for 2-4 months at a time.

The second delay comes from the complications inherent in assembling the works, usually from many sources. It can be easier if the artist is still alive and/or has gallery/agent representation. If not, however, finding pieces can be a real detective task. A two year planning cycle might seem like just-in-time planning for some shows.

@Yamo: I've never heard of works appreciating solely on the basis of being displayed at a major museum, although I am sure that in some niches (such as the decorative arts) such history might be an attractive tag. Artists, in general, benefit from having a resumé sprinkled with prominent museum show participations. But most museum exhibitions feature well-established artists whose works are already highly valued in the art world.

@ Louis: There really is no universal answer to your question concerning artist compensation for shows. As I noted, the spirit of museum shows tends to be recognition rather than profit. Museums do pay artists fees for making public appearances.

Private galleries, however, are a completely different matter from museums. Museums' primary mission is that of education. Private galleries are sales showrooms devoted to the promotion of the artists they represent. An artist gets paid for having a show at such a gallery when his/her work gets sold. Generally speaking, it can cost a photographer a great deal of time and money just to prepare work for such a private gallery show since s/he is, in effect, creating new inventory.

The snippet of the Meyerowitz show that I saw in the HP promo suggested that his Jeu de Paume show followed more of a sponsored private gallery model that a conventional museum exhibition model. I could, however, be very mistaken.

Thank you all for adding your comments to this topic!

Thank you, Ken; this post was quite educational.

"Private galleries are sales showrooms devoted to the promotion of the artists they represent. [...] Generally speaking, it can cost a photographer a great deal of time and money just to prepare work for such a private gallery show..."

And then there are community galleries and similar non-profit places. Now, _that_ also costs money. Let's say you want to exhibit 30 photos in 40x60 format. Here in Zagreb, it will cost you something like $20 to print one photo in good quality. All together, $600. Such galleries don't have money...

Thank you Ken

Taking the example of a corporate sponsored show. Would the photographer get paid for the prints and their preparation?

At the end of the show who owns the prints (and or special frames if any)?

I guess once again things may vary a lot but I was wondering would the corporate sponsor or the museum or the photographer own the exhibition once it was taken down.


I think it depends on who owns the prints when they went up. Museums do mount shows of work from their own collections, but they don't magically acquire prints they don't own simply by showing them.

Mike J.

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