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Collecting for the Public: Works that Made a Difference

Collecting for the Public: Works that Made a Difference


In this celebration of collecting, in 34 essays, renowned curators and art historians discuss the acquisition of works of art, medieval to modern, by museums in Europe and the United States - acquisitions that have made a difference, crucial acquisitions from a more distant but also the recent past.


There was a time when museums might have been regarded as rather forbidding and austere centres of learning, but today they are more likely to position themselves firmly within the tourism and leisure industry with all manner of food, fun and family entertainment on offer. A high-profile museum brand often relies on a fast-changing menu of temporary exhibitions with an attractive programme of activities, cleverly marketed to ever-growing numbers of visitors. Many of these changes have been positive and beneficial but they have not been without risk to the central purpose of museums as repositories for collections that are looked after, researched and displayed with knowledge and sensitivity. The permanent collection should be the heart and soul of any museum. Nurtured and developed with intelligence, a collection can be an endless source of surprise and delight as well as a focus of local and national pride. The museum in this view is a setting for sustained encounters with objects and works of art, somewhere to be visited and revisited over the course of a lifetime, a place that helps to bind communities, with collections that are cared for and shared as a reminder of the past and a source of inspiration for the present.


The process of acquiring works for public collections is rarely easy in any setting. In the face of escalating prices on the art market and diminishing public funds it is all too easy for complacency and apathy to settle upon the museum community. But the task of building collections of national or local importance is never finished. It should not be about casual ‘shopping' or satisfying the whims of museum directors or sponsors. It is about building a heritage that is richer, more complete and more relevant for future generations; with every successful acquisition, a museum's collection gains in strength and character.


The volume is dedicated to Peter Hecht, the great champion of public art collections, who throughout his career has worked to show us why museums matter and how their collections, large or small, national or local, can make a profound difference to the lives of those who use them. We hope that it will bring people the world over to realise the importance of collecting for the public, locally, nationally and internationally, and to acknowledge and encourage the role of private individuals, associations and institutions, as well as public bodies, in this vital endeavour.

  • Cornelis, Luijten, van Tilborgh & Zeedijk

    Contributions by Jan van Adrichem, Carel Blotkamp, Jan Maarten Boll, Christopher Brown, Lorne Campbell, Bart Cornelis, Frits Duparc, Sjarel Ex, Jan Piet Filedt Kok, Jeroen Giltaij, Peter Hecht, Anette Kruszynski, Ronald de Leeuw, John Leighton, Ger Luijten, Neil Macgregor, Jan Gorm Madsen, Mary Morton, Nicholas Penny, Esmée Quodbach, Konrad Renger, Pierre Rosenberg, Jochen Sander, Marijn Schapelhouman, Peter Schatborn, Frits Scholten, Manfred Sellink, Frances Suzman Jowell, Louis van Tilborgh, Gijsbert van der Wal, Gregor Weber, Arthur Wheelock, Tim Zeedijk and Nina Zimmer


    Hardback, 260 x 216 mm
    240 pages, 90 colour illus.
    ISBN: 978 1 911300 04 5

  • In the press

    Best Art Book 2016 —Evening Stanard 


    "Written with real verve and enthusiasm. The only danger associated with using it as bedside reading is that it will take you hours to switch off the light. —Evening Standard 


    "A distinguished group…has assembled engagingly written essays on the theme of collecting…Anyone interested in works of art and the way they may - or may not - pass into the ownership of museums will enjoy this entertaining and instructive compilation."—Country LIfe


    "Cogent and engaging ... proves that museums can thrive and expand in our era." —Apollo


    "Illuminates the transformative powers of museum acquisitions." —The Art Newspaper 


    "Written by a stellar line-up of leading curators, directors and academics …. this beautiful tribute … has a definite mission for the future. While erudite, authoritative and witty (sometimes all three at once), its tone is not complacent: it is a passionate call for curators to keep on making acquisitions." —World of Interiors 


    “Elegantly packaged … illuminating pieces” —Arts Quarterly 


    "A lovely gift for Peter Hecht, who has always stressed that museum collections are the beating heart and memory of society." —Museumtijdschrift (Netherlands) 

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