Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art & Art History

First Advisor

Kira van Lil

Second Advisor

Claire Farago

Third Advisor

Patrick Kociolek


In this thesis, I examine 21st century relationships between collectors and public art museums, when private museums funded by collectors are multiplying. As a result, museums and collectors are forming new kinds of partnerships. Fears of uneven power relations, and limitations of curatorial agency have clouded critics' opinions of these alliances. My contention is that American museums have always been a fusion of public and private efforts throughout history. I scrutinize three models collector-museum relations: gift of artwork from a collector, long-term loan from a collector, and collectors who open private museums. Each relationship has its own implications and benefits for the museum, the collectors, and the public. I argue that curatorial authority is an asset of public museums, but that privately funded museums are an appropriate alternative if collectors wish to have control over the presentation of artwork. I arrive at proposing ethical points for guiding potential collector-museum partnerships.