Acquisition fund to help galleries & museums to fill gap in key contemporary artwork from last 50 years

Illustrative photo: Maria Hammerich-Maier

The government has approved Culture Ministry plans to provide tens of millions of crowns in state funds for largely regional galleries and museums to acquire Czech as well as international contemporary artwork produced over the last 50 years. The acquisition fund, to be overseen by a nine-member board, would allocate funds to help fill gaps in state collections of work by key artists, for one reason or another, have been under-represented.

Illustrative photo: Maria Hammerich-Maier
I spoke to the director and head curator of Prague’s Futura Gallery, Michal Novotný, asking how he saw the development.

“Certainly I would say it is a kind of crisis management trend addressing a problem which has lasted for several decades. Put simply, mainly state institutions, mainly state collections which are supposed to preserve the heritage of the country, do not have a representative sample of artwork that happened mainly after 1980. It is an attempt to do something about the situation; at the same time I do not know if the money that the ministry will guarantee every year for acquisitions will be enough.”

What was the problem until now? Was it simply that the funds were not available, that the smaller galleries didn’t have the capacity or the budget for such acquisitions?

“They certainly didn’t have the budget and some had budgets in the several thousands of crowns which is not a budget for anything. The problem is also one of personnel: in general, we do not have a developed state structure of contemporary art institutions that would also employ and educate professionals able to curate the collections, to decide which artworks to buy and which to leave.

“Of course, in the past some acquisitions happened, it is not that we didn’t have any, but they were rather personal or random choices. By instituting this board of experts where institutions themselves will have to apply, the state will take back power in a way.”

The board is to have nine members, experts in the field of the visual arts, presumably from different areas… Is that enough to ensure wide choice of different artworks and artists, some perhaps more obscure?

“I think that it should be enough if we are talking about funds of 80 million crowns, it should be enough, for key artworks by key artists. But if the funds were higher – and I believe they should be – it would be better for more people from the arts scene to be on the board.”