In November of 1999, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York announced that it would devote an exhibition to honor the works of the celebrated Italian designer Giorgio Armani. However, during the announcement of the exhibition, the museum did not mention that it was simultaneously entering into a three-year agreement in which Armani pledged a donation of $15 million to Guggenheim. When The New York Times unveiled Armani's gift, the museum strongly denied any connection between the exhibition and the gift, stating that the exhibition was sponsored not by Armani but by In Style, a fashion magazine in which Armani advertises.
The relationship between art and money is a debated issue that is not new for non-profit organizations such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. For most of the 20th century up until the mid-1960s, individual philanthropists were the main financial supporters of museums. By the mid-1970s, institutions, not individuals, were the main financial supporters of museums. Both corporations and the government were heavily involved. However, as private and corporate money became a strong component of a non-profit organization's yearly funds in the 1990s, ethical issues rose from this trend for museums: Are today's museums "selling out" to the highest bidder on the market? Is the Armani exhibition considered a sell-out?
Through an analysis of the Guggenheim Foundation's mission statement, the nature of the Armani exhibition itself, and internal and external factors that influence the decisions made by the Foundation, the Armani exhibition is found to be a sell-out. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and its Mission
Founded in 1937, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation focuses on artistic modernity and global outreach through the "promotion and encouragement and education in art and the enlightenment of the public." The mission statement of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation allows room for diversity in the types of visual works that the Guggenheim museums display by stating its focal point is on "art, architecture, and other manifestations of visual culture, primarily of the modern and contemporary periods (see Exhibit 1 for mission statement)." This is exemplified through the various exhibits the Guggenheim museums have shown in its history, from the works of American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein and American Abstract Expressionist sculptor David Smith to the thematic displays of "Reflections: Socialist Realism and Russian Art" and "1900: Art at the Crossroads."
In addition, the Guggenheim Foundation has strongly pursued its mission in engaging and educating "an increasingly diverse international audience." With the slogan of "One Museum, Five Locations," the Guggenheim Foundation increased its global presence through the establishment of museums in Las Vegas, Bilbao, Venice, and Berlin. Collaborations with museums and artists worldwide have also contributed to the diversity of the Guggenheim Foundation's exhibitions, events, and activities. The global appeal of the Guggenheim Museum in New York is demonstrated through the makeup of its visitors: 70 percent of the visitors come from out of town. Also, to further increase global recognition and participation, the Guggenheim Foundation uses "exceptional exhibitions, education programs, research initiatives, and publications" to "engage and educate" the global community. True to its mission, the Guggenheim Foundation has established the Sackler Center for Arts Education in 2001, provided opportunities for educators and students to connect through art, initiated family-oriented tours and programs, and invited guests and lecturers for events.
The type of donors the Guggenheim Foundation attracts also reflects its mission statement: modern, influential, and international. For example, the Guggenheim Foundation's long-term global partners are Deutsche Bank and Samsung,...