Art Philanthropy in the US Depends on Prestige

Art Philanthropy in the US Relies on the Prestigious Reputation of Artistic Institutions, Northeastern Study Shows.

Jan 21, 2024By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
The Met, Art Philanthropy
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) entrance façade in Upper East Side, Manhattan, New York City. Via Wikipedia


Art philanthropy in the US relies on the prestigious reputation of artistic institutions, Northeastern study shows. Since time immemorial, wealthy people and organizations remain known to support artistic endeavors. Also, the vast majority of American institutions of modern art still rely on donations from the private sector.


Art Philanthropy as Excessively Localized

The Orlando Museum of Art, Art Philanthropy
Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.


In 2018, the New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that it received over $250 million in charitable contributions. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts also announced that it gathered more than $60 million in donations. This constitutes about half of each institution’s overall income. Most art institutions have tight financial constraints.


The annual budgets of art museums get a meagre 15% of funding from government subsidies. Using its network science resources, Northeastern’s Centre for Complex Network Research created a comprehensive quantitative image of charitable art support. The goal was to identify the trends that control private donations. Also, to assist art organisations in raising money more effectively.


Chicago’s Field Museum, Art Philanthropy
Via the museum.


Also, nearly half of the contributors granted more than half of the gifts in their home state. Art institutions have a nearly 70% donor return rate one year later. But, excessive localization of charitable support can force organisations to contend with various creative forms as well as within the same field for donors. “I was quite surprised by the locality of the art funding”, says Albert-László Barabási director of the Center for Complex Network Research.

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Top Ten Institutions Received Above 1,000 endowments

Chicago’s Field Museum
(Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)


“We have seen that before in the science funding space, but art felt more universal, implying that if you’re interested in a particular kind of art institution you should easily cross state boundaries”, the director also stated. To measure the relationships between donors and recipients in art, the center examined IRS-shared tax forms 990 and 990PF that were electronically filed by 685,000 nonprofit organisations.


“The art world functions inherently as a network that includes different kinds of players, including artists, institutions, curators and critics. Network science offers a way to map out and understand in a quantitative way these networks so that the fruits of this research become available to all players”, the director of the center added. The study found a significant relationship between funding and the institutional standing of art organisations.


Self-Employed Creatives
United States Capitol. Via Wikipedia


The top ten most esteemed institutions with an average of over 1,000 endowments. Lower-profile institutions obtained dozens to hundreds of gifts, totaling between $100,000 and $10 million. Also, a sizeable percentage of charitable contributions to art institutions—61 percent of money and 56 percent of grants—occur locally. According to the scientists, this localization of funding raises questions about the justice and equitable distribution of resources among various populations and geographical areas.













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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.