News

Private Giving Sustains Art Museums, Study Finds

A figure from the AAMD's "Art Museums By the Numbers 2014" report (all screenshots via aamd.org)
A figure from the AAMD’s “Art Museums By the Numbers 2014” report (all screenshots via aamd.org)

The average museumgoer in the US, Canada, and Mexico spends $7.93 during her visit (the average museumgoer must not be in New York City), while the museum spends $53.17 on her, according to the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD). The figures come from the AAMD’s first annual “Art Museums By the Numbers” report, for which the organization surveyed member institutions to create a data portrait of museums in 2014.

The report is brief, and the information therein not especially extensive or detailed. But there are interesting factoids, including the statement that “individual philanthropy — whether through membership programs or in the form of individual and family donations — remains the strongest source of support for art museums in the US.” A larger breakdown of US, Canadian, and Mexican museums shows that philanthropy comprises the largest chunk of the average institution’s revenue — 33% — followed by endowment income at 21%. Government support of some kind accounts for 18%, while admissions make up only 7% — a low figure that seems to underline the argument for doing away with entry fees altogether and making museums free.

Figure from the AAMD's "Art Museums By the Numbers 2014"
Figure from the AAMD’s “Art Museums By the Numbers 2014”

Another figure reinforces the takeaway that many public museums in the US, Canada, and Mexico are highly reliant on private individuals (and their tastes): the surveyed institutions purchased a total 12,197 objects in 2013; they received, either as donations or bequests, 73,813. That’s six times as many gifts as purchases.

In total, the AAMD found that nearly 61.5 million people visited 220 member museums across the three countries in 2014 — a statistic that sounds robust enough, although it’s hard to know what it means without anything to compare it to (the most recent National Arts Index pegged US art museum attendance in 2012 at roughly 31 million). The report also tallies the total members of those museums at 1.9 million, a figure that seems high, AAMD Executive Director Chris Anagnos told ARTnews. “Art Museums By the Numbers” is intriguing in this way, suggesting good tidings for the institutions it represents, but it will be even more useful when it has more context.

Figure from the AAMD's "Art Museums By the Numbers 2014"
Figure from the AAMD’s “Art Museums By the Numbers 2014”
comments (0)