Material object and immaterial collector: is there room for the collector-donor discourse in the museal space?
Museums offer their visitors the possibility of appreciating a multitude of artefacts, many of which do not necessarily come from the institution’s own collecting efforts. Besides loans from other museums and acquisitions from the specialised art scene, there are also artefacts that used to adorn the interior domestic spaces of private collectors. Experienced museumgoers may be able to pick out the legacy of collector-donors among the various works on display, but what do they truly understand of these indispensable partners of the museum? Often forgotten about, the relationship between collectors and museums, and more precisely between ‘collector-donors’ and ‘museum-recipients’, is nevertheless unavoidable. This article addresses this issue by focusing on notions of collecting and giving, and by examining how the mechanisms linking these concepts are interdependent. These ideas are developed in two parts: first, how collectors create a discourse around their collections and, second, what vestiges of this discourse remain once the collection is given to a museum or collecting institution. This research question occurred to me after more than twelve years of professional activity in the philanthropic field.1 Professional experience has allowed me to witness and participate in numerous gift transactions, some of them difficult, few of them perfectly fluid.