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July 21, 2015

Opinion: Art Museums Succumbing to the Lure of Commerce

Citing a growing number of collaborations among museums, for-profit galleries, art dealers, and corporations, a Los Angeles Times art critic laments what he terms the "relentless" commercialization of nonprofit cultural institutions.

Christopher Knight says the "disturbing transformation" gained speed with noted art dealer Jeffrey Deitch's tenure as director of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and now results in routine blurring of boundaries between the commercial and nonprofit art worlds, with dealers curating museum exhibitions while museums mount shows for commercial art fairs and rent out works for profit to corporations and other institutions.

The independence from commercial concerns meant to underpin museums' nonprofit status "is being corrupted as the wall separating art museums from business activities is crumbling," Mr. Knight writes. With public funding for the arts shrinking and art soaring in value on the private market, he writes, museums face pressure to monetize their assets and an "urge to lower the bar in courting philanthropy."