The plutocracy of museums

Earlier in the week, I was involved in a discussion organised by Thomas Marks, the former editor of Apollo about the structure of governance in museums: what works and what doesn’t and how to improve it. I had a sense that some things are improving: more board training; more role definition; a greater sense of legal and fiduciary duties; a bit more transparency, but oddly this may be handicapped rather than improved by the requirement to publish board minutes (anything sensitive is redacted and minutes are often summary). We stopped a long way short of any radical suggestions as to how systems of governance might change. So, I was interested by the attached article about how to make American boards more representative. In Britain, we already have a good tradition of having artists on Boards – three at the Tate, one at the National Gallery. The suggestion is that there should be more staff or union representation. From my limited experience of this, the relationship tends to be adversarial rather than constructive, but maybe we should be paying more attention to the operation of staff councils in Germany.

By the way, John Tusa’s book, On Board: the Insider’s Guide to Surviving Life in the Boardroom is being published in paperback next week. It’s much the best guide to all these issues, based on Tusa’s own long experience of the pitfalls.


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