Economics News USA

Need a crowd to fund your museum? Call Kickstarter

The co-founder of the website that gets the public to support creative projects wants to talk to MoMA and Tate

One of the few museums already on Kickstarter is the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in Brooklyn, which successfully raised $50,000 to develop its website on Kickstarter this July

The co-founder of a website that has raised nearly $770m for creative projects in just four years says he is keen to collaborate with museums to help them harness the potential of crowdfunding.

“If Tate or MOMA wanted to talk to us, we’d love that. That would be breaking new ground,” says Yancey Strickler. He set up Kickstarter with Perry Chen and Charles Adler in 2009 to provide a money-raising platform for artistic projects that “are hard to fund. Projects that have potential to make money are easy to fund. But we were driven by the idea that quirky, quixotic ideas could also happen because people wanted them to.”

Kickstarter, which currently operates in the US, Canada and Britain with plans to expand further, can only be used to fund individual projects, “something with a clear end…[that] will eventually be completed”, so museums could not use it to seek money for operational costs but Strickler says institutions could fund-raise for “specific programming or ventures”.

By and large museums have barely explored the potential of social media when fundraising. An exception is the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in Brooklyn which successfully raised $50,000 to develop its website on Kickstarter this July. But many larger museums such as MoMA have never asked the public directly for funds (although MoMA’s $25 adult admission charge is arguably an ongoing, direct appeal) nor have they used crowd-sourced fundraising tactics.

Although national museums in Britain (which are all free) have yet to explore the power of online crowdfunding, they do regularly ask the public for contributions, for example when seeking money to buy a work of art that would otherwise go to an overseas buyer. In 2007, Tate and the Art Fund, a charity, launched a successful appeal to save Turner’s watercolour The Blue Rigi for which 11,000 people collectively donated £550,000 over several months. “As a public body, it is important that Tate is constantly exploring different ways of generating income and raising funds,” says a museum spokeswoman.

The Louvre has a fruitful crowdfunding campaign called “Tous mécènes!” (all patrons) that has helped the museum raise money to acquire and restore works. In 2010, the public donated €1.26m towards the acquisition Lucas Cranach’s The Three Graces, 1531, and the museum is current looking to raise the final €1m needed to conserve its Winged Victory of Samothrace, dating from the second century BC.

On Kickstarter, all the initiatives must be fully funded within a maximum limit of 60 days or the project gets nothing. “The all or nothing approach is amazingly effective in creating momentum and rallying people around an idea,” says Strickler. “Ultimately Kickstarter is a meritocracy: good ideas stand out.”

The model also gives people the opportunity to connect directly with artists, film-makers and other creatives whose work they may have followed for years. Since its launch, the website has helped realise over 47,000 initiatives from comics and video games to paintings, novels, dance performances and films, by connecting creative individuals directly with their supporters and the wider public.

The artist Marina Abramovic used Kickstarter this summer to raise over $660,000 from 4,765 people for the design phase of her planned performance art centre in Hudson, New York. All the donors to Abramovic’s campaign, even those who pledged the minimum amount of $1, will get a hug from the artist at a series of receptions she intends to organise. The rewards offered for those who donated more included a “movie night with Marina” for $5,000; and a dinner with lessons on “how to cook a series of traditional soups” for $10,000.

“You go directly to the people that have supported you throughout the years,” says the director Spike Lee in a video for Kickstarter, which he used this summer to raise money for a new, unnamed film. “That’s your base, that’s your foundation.” After 30 days, Lee raised $1.4m from 6,421 backers.

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23 Sep 13
19:34 CET


Large museums never asking the public directly for funds? If that's how you feel then you've never walked into a museum, opened an email, or checked your mailbox. Museums don't need help raising money for special projects or exhibitions as these are some of the easiest to fund. It's the annual funds that keep the lights on that large institutions want help with. And why would a large museum with it's own staff for raising money want to give a cut of it's proceeds to Kickstarter?

21 Sep 13
17:17 CET


I am a fan of Kickstarter and see it as a great opportunity for individuals who would not otherwise hav an audience to to promote their ideas and gather funding. Opening the Kickstarter arena to internationally acclaimed institutions may result in the individual creator being ignored, passed over, forgotten... These institutions have huge audiences, large mailing lists and global audiences they should be utilizing. Kickstarter, in my opinion, was made for the people, built by the people, funded by the people, fulfilled by the people. Don't let the big corporate giants once again steal the spotlight from emerging artists and the upcoming thinkers of our time.

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