A crowdfunding campaign conducted by The Bowes Museum earlier this year proved so successful that it sparked international interest across the Museum world and resulted in aiding the Art Fund set up its own new fundraising platform.
The Museum initially turned to the growing trend of crowdfunding – which involves pooling individual pledges from people eager to support projects they’re keen to adopt - via the online platform Kickstarter, and in doing so managed to raise and surpass its target sum.
The resultant publicity prompted museums and organisations to contact the Museum’s project coordinator, Alison Nicholson, to learn more about the rudiments of raising money via this funding phenomenon. Mrs Nicholson also hosted a visit by Art Fund staff; a collaboration which has contributed to their setting up a way of supporting museums with their own online crowdfunding platform Art Happens, and to five museums around the UK attempting to each fund their own project. The benefits to museums and galleries of using Art Happens to crowdfund their projects are that the Art Fund will not be charging a fee like many other platforms, and the donations will be eligible for Gift Aid.
The Bowes Museum now plans to channel its latest fundraising campaign using the new Art Fund platform, which launches on Tuesday 17 June, to raise the £21,000 required to sympathetically redisplay The Passion Altarpiece and reveal the hidden secrets on its reverse. Promotion of the campaign will be through a combination of support from the Art Fund, the use of project ambassadors and the Museum’s existing digital and traditional marketing activities.
The altarpiece is made up of six oil-on-panel paintings by Master of the View of St Gudule (active c 1465-1500), and intricate wooden carvings by the Brussels Sculptors’ Guild, forming a sequence that tells of the arrest, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
If successful, the project will fund research into how the piece would originally have been displayed; the construction of a new frame and bespoke stand, raising it to the required height for an altarpiece; some conservation of the carvings, and new, more meaningful interpretation.
The project also proposes to give access to the paintings currently hidden from view by allowing the shutters to be opened and closed to reveal the six paintings on the reverse, of St Anthony, the family of Zebedee and the four fathers of the church, along with the signature mallet marks of the aforementioned Guild.
“The conservation and redisplay will give visitors a greater understanding of the piece and its significance to the Museum’s early religious art collection,” said Mrs Nicholson. “I’m really excited about being involved in the first round of museums using the Art Fund’s new crowdfunding platform. It will be an amazing achievement to reveal and reunite our 15th century altarpiece and return it to its former glory. I really hope the public will donate to help make it happen.”
Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, said: “Building on the Art Fund’s historical success and recent experiments in digital crowd-funding, we are keen to use the tide of public engagement with museums to bring supporters ever closer to new, live museum projects. Through Art Happens anyone can be a patron as well as beneficiary of the arts. It’s the start of a new chapter for UK museums in terms of both public fundraising and public participation.”
Rewards for pledges, which can be any amount from £5 to £1,000, will include a range of great products and exclusive behind the scenes access to the conservation studio, picture stores, archives and VIP tours with the Director and other Museum staff.
To make a donation to this exciting project visit www.artfund.org/arthappens-bowes from Tuesday 17 June.
The four other museums to take part in Art Happens are: Compton Verney, Warwickshire; the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, Shropshire; Jerwood Gallery, Hastings; and St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff.