Monday, July 12, 2010

Te Papa buys version of painting already owned by the Australian National Library

Why has Te Papa spent over two million dollars on a painting when another copy is available for loan just across the Tasman? The purchase of one of three versions of John Webber’s painting Poedua (Poetua) was made using ‘cash reserves for capital purchases and projects, a mixture of funding from government and the museum's commercial activities.’ It seems a strange purchase when an virtually identical version of this work is only 3.5 hours away by plane in Canberra in the National Gallery of Australia, on loan from the Australian National Library. 

You might wonder whether or not Te Papa had any conversation with the Australians about the possibility of borrowing the work on a regular basis. None of these art works stay on permanent display. If the Australian National Library was willing to lend its work to the ANG, couldn’t Te Papa also become a loan partner?

If Te Papa is to remain a sustainable collecting institution entering into cooperative arrangements with other institutions will surely have to be seriously considered. This is already happening between institutions like the Tate in London, the Whitney in New York and the Pompidou in Paris. They share the cost of expensive art works rather than each going to the huge expense of owning their own examples. The borrowing option could be even cheaper and easier.

You can read more about institutions sharing art works here.

Image: the three versions of Poedua. Left to right, National Maritime Museum in London, Australian National Library and Te Papa