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Hoping to sustain that momentum, the museum is rethinking its exhibition strategies. Economics drive many of the changes. Except in rare cases, the blockbuster shows that individual museums started doing in the 1960s are no longer financially sound.
Now museums spread the costs by sharing responsibilities. While one institution oversees catalog preparation, another may line up national sponsors and a third will negotiate a federal insurance guarantee. The Matisse exhibit has already been shown in Indianapolis and Houston, and “Empire” is a collaboration with museums in Vienna, Atlanta and Houston.
“If we’re not able to get partners, we can’t proceed because the return on investment is just not there,” said Matthew Welch, the MIA’s deputy director and chief curator.
Concepts are also scrutinized closely. “Certain names we know will always do well — Rembrandt and Matisse will do very well; Picasso will do great,” Welch said. “At the same time, we will always do exhibitions that should be done, that are scholarly and important.
“The end game in all this is to develop a public that says, ‘Oh, I’ve never heard of Artist X, but I don’t care because everything the MIA does is spectacular.’ ”
Mary Abbe • 612-673-4431