If we must commingle art and commerce, 2 museums show us the way

Posted on Friday, Jun 29, 2012
Passing the Barnes Foundation's sprawling new parking lot one recent afternoon, I was surprised to see half the spaces were empty. By evening, however, the joint was jumping, the lot was full, and many female visitors were wearing skyscraper heels, rather than the sensible flats of the serious museumgoer. That's when it hit me that the real motive for cramming the lot onto the Barnes' tiny site was to help the gallery promote itself as a party venue. The Barnes is not alone in chasing after the lucrative events business. Public funding has been drying up since the late ‘80s and now barely covers a quarter of the average museum's operating budget, the American Association of Museums says. To replace the lost government aid, museums everywhere are turning to more overtly commercial, moneymaking ventures. These days, people are just as likely to visit an art museum for a wedding reception as for the treasures on the walls.
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