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Victoria & Albert Museum

V&A cuts foreign loans

Fewer loans in order to save resources

London

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) has introduced tighter restrictions on loans abroad and this is causing some concern to foreign exhibition organisers. There are also fears that the cut-back will end up making it more difficult for the museum to borrow works from European institutions. Although foreign loans are continuing, the V&A will only be lending to twenty overseas venues this year, compared to more than twice this number in 1996. Assistant director Timothy Stevens says that “with diminishing government grants, we have been looking at where we can make savings, to free up staff resources for the refurbishment of the British Galleries.” The museum is scrutinising loan requests more carefully, and is refusing “where assistance from us does not seem to be essential to the exhibition.” Loans to UK borrowers have also been cut, but less drastically. In 1996 the V&A lent 939 objects to 124 venues (seventy-two UK and fifty-two overseas). This year the number of venues is down by more than half, to fifty-five (thirty-five UK and twenty overseas). However, the 920 objects being lent this year are only slightly fewer than in 1996. This is partly because the figure includes 200 items in the V&A’s North American touring show, “The grand design” (which moves to Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, 18 October-10 January 1999, and to San Francisco’s Fine Arts Museum, 13 February-9 May). Earlier this year we revealed that the British Museum had temporarily suspended all foreign loans, to save time and costs (The Art Newspaper, No.78, February 1998, p.12). In 1996, the last full year before the restrictions, the museum lent just under 3,000 items to 137 foreign institutions, with loans to UK borrowers at a very similar level. The British Museum’s suspension of foreign loans has now been rescinded, although an additional £1,000 loan fee for each foreign exhibition has been introduced. This fee is to cover administrative expenses and staff time, and is on top of packing and transport costs which have always been paid by the borrower.