Preserving Textiles Isn't the Sexy, Which Is Perfectly Fine By This Funder

In a recent post we asked the following:

If the "Bilbao Effect," named for the opening of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao in northern Spain in 1997, is the term we use to describe the desired outcome of an expensive, capital-intensive project, then what do we call the opposite effect?

In lieu of a recent gift via the Boulder, Colorado-based Avenir Foundation—which we'll get to in one second—we'd like to rephrase that question accordingly:

If springing for a massively expensive and glitzy capital project is the sexiest thing a museum can do, what's the least sexiest thing?

The answer would arguably be "springing for the much-needed preservation and storage of existing work."

Did you just take a quick five second nap there? We're not surprised. It's slightly less headline-catching than, say, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's $600 million expansion—now put on hold—that calls for the demolition of an entire wing to increase exhibition space and the doubling of the size of its Roof Garden.

Indeed, in an increasingly cash-drenched visual arts world—museums spent nearly $5 billion between 2007 and 2014, according to the Art Newspaper—we sometimes forget that the Mona Lisa doesn't dust herself.

The Avenir Foundation knows that lesson also applies to the incredible collection at the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. And so it gave the museum a $5 million gift to purchase specialized care and preservation equipment for its collection. The foundation pledged the $5 million gift in 2014, and recently made the final installment. The museum will name its collections storage and conservation facility in Ashburn, Virginia the Avenir Foundation Conservation and Collections Resource Center.

The Textile Museum’s 88-year-old collection includes more than 20,000 textile artifacts, some dating back to 600 A.D. The museum also includes a gallery showcasing the university’s collection of historic Washington maps and documents.

The foundation's gift resembles one it made back in 2013 in the form of $3 million to the Denver Art Museum to provide more space for its textile art gallery. Around that time it also gave the Denver Museum of Nature & Science a series of grants totaling $3.75 million in support of the Museum's new Collections Conservation Center.

Which brings us back to our opening quote at the beginning of this post. If you clicked on the first hyperlink you'd find that despite the multi-billion dollar gold rush sweeping the curatorial space, many foundations, believe it or not, remain committed to funding smaller, less sexy initiatives. For an example inside the visual arts space click here. And for a comparable gift outside the curatorial world click here.

Comforting, isn't it?