Town Planning Review

Who brands whom?: The role of local authorities in the branching of art museums

Town Planning Review (2011), 82, (1), 99–115.

Abstract

Museums around the world are seeing changes in how they fundraise and manage their collections; fundraising efforts increasingly involve the private sector and museums are adopting a more entrepreneurial management approach to growth. To be internationally competitive, one growing trend for museums is to promote themselves as a brand in order to attract more visitors and private-sector funding. The increasingly global recognition of a museum's brand has resulted in the expansion of many major international museums throughout the world though branches and franchises. But who is really driving this growth? Are museums opening branches worldwide as part of a development strategy? Are museums driving this expansion or are they responding to local pressures?

This article will attempt to reveal the role of local authorities in the development of museum branches by comparing the history, project-specific characteristics and impact on urban regeneration of three branches of the Louvre, Tate and Guggenheim museums in three different cities. In fact, creating a cultural flagship is a very commonly used tool in urban regeneration projects and many cities appear to be racing toward being competitive rather than distinct. To this end, many city planners and leaders want to host the branch or franchise of a world-renowned museum because they consider a museum brand to be more meaningful and valuable than another local cultural institution. This article explores whether opening a branch of a famous museum is a winning strategy for these cities and examines to what extent a museum brand can be used as an effective tool for branding a city.

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Vivant, Elsa