Still a business, even surrounded by all that art

An art museum special exhibition needs a compelling, fresh idea to draw interest as it seeks to borrow works of art.

As values climb, it can be challenging to borrow great pieces that fit a particular theme. It’s competitive, but Columbus Museum of Art Executive Director Nannette Maciejunes believes healthy competition lives alongside collaboration and makes projects better.

“We’re very generous lenders from our collection. We’re very fortunate to have a lot of major pictures that people want to borrow,” she says.

The CMA’s little Paul Cézanne has just gone off to Paris, before it heads to London and Washington, D.C. Maciejunes says even large museums with impressive holdings borrow from smaller institutions.

The CMA likes to mix different works and projects. The museum has put on several exhibitions grounded by one permanent-collection painting, giving it new context.

“One of the important things that art museums must do is to make the collections that they hold relevant and meaningful to the communities that they are a part of,” she says.

Museums also need to consider the market. For example, Henri Matisse shows are so popular and competition so fierce that Maciejunes wants to wait to do something — even though the CMA has great Matisse works.

Another constraint is budget. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts just displayed 340 works in a Marc Chagall exhibition. The CMA could never compete on that level. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to. People in Columbus were thrilled with the 50 works in its Pablo Picasso show, she says.

But even small projects can be fun, Maciejunes says. For example, the museum borrowed three Chagalls from Jeanie and Jay Schottenstein to hang in the gallery this summer and fall.

Does any of this sound familiar? Maciejunes says museums are still a business, even if the CMA is a notprofit. Learn more about what goes on behind the scenes in this month’s Uniquely feature.

In addition, please get to know and learn from the interesting and progressive female executives, such as Maciejunes, in our Smart Women issue. We’ve also highlighted the award winners who will be recognized at the Aug. 15 breakfast. I hope to see you there!