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ISET Economist Blog

A blog about economics in the South Caucasus.

Sorry, where is the contemporary art museum?

From Eurasianet:

According to Ivanishvili, who made his $5.5 billion fortune in the Russian banking and metals industries, such headline-grabbing purchases were part of a calculated business strategy -- opening a world-class art museum in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, that can do battle with New York City’s Solomon R. Guggenheim museum and other prominent modern art centers.
"This all started because I thought about what I can do for the country, for tourism, to rejuvenate Georgia," Ivanishvili said during an interview with EurasiaNet.org. Some “one, two, three hundred million” dollars have been set aside for the museum’s collection, he continued.

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is an example of a new art museum contributing to the rejuveneration of a city. By some estimates, the initial investment of more than $180 million (not including the value of the art collection) was recovered after just seven years, not counting the economic impact on the local economy and the quadrupling of tourist arrivals. Unfortunately, Bilbao’s success proved hard to replicate in other cities – Helsinki, Sheffield, Milwaukee are examples of cities that failed in making their new art museum an economic success.

But in the end what matters is the art, and not dollar signs. Here's looking forward to finally seeing a contemporary art museum in Tbilisi.

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Guest - Eric on Saturday, 19 November 2011 01:54

Potentially a great way to bring tourists in the low season. Exactly the thing Georgia needs most. High season tourism at "peak load" prices is no fun at all. It has been growing so far, but there is a limit to how many tourists Batumi, Kobuleti and Anaklya (?) can absorb given that there is a much cheaper (and better) alternative on the Turkish side of the border.

Potentially a great way to bring tourists in the low season. Exactly the thing Georgia needs most. High season tourism at "peak load" prices is no fun at all. It has been growing so far, but there is a limit to how many tourists Batumi, Kobuleti and Anaklya (?) can absorb given that there is a much cheaper (and better) alternative on the Turkish side of the border.
Guest - Leqso on Thursday, 01 December 2011 01:15

Thank you for interesting post,

Having contemporary art museum will be great attraction for tourists, especially if we will have one like in Bilbao, but I doubt it can become main motivation for tourists to travel in Georgia during low season, at least for upcoming years. Although, recently we can notice several non-traditional style monuments in Georgian cities, like "Perilleusement Votre" in Batumi and "Bicycle" that replaced monument of David the Builder on the Rose Revolution square, Tbilisi. These pieces can be indicating will of Georgian government to start cultural revolution in cities of Georgia, logical continuation of which will be opening contemporary art museum. additionally, my guess will be that If we will have this type of museum it will be outside Tbilisi,(in Kutaisi, for example)

Thank you for interesting post, Having contemporary art museum will be great attraction for tourists, especially if we will have one like in Bilbao, but I doubt it can become main motivation for tourists to travel in Georgia during low season, at least for upcoming years. Although, recently we can notice several non-traditional style monuments in Georgian cities, like "Perilleusement Votre" in Batumi and "Bicycle" that replaced monument of David the Builder on the Rose Revolution square, Tbilisi. These pieces can be indicating will of Georgian government to start cultural revolution in cities of Georgia, logical continuation of which will be opening contemporary art museum. additionally, my guess will be that If we will have this type of museum it will be outside Tbilisi,(in Kutaisi, for example)
Guest - moonshine on Thursday, 01 December 2011 14:20

I very much agree. Even improving the existing provincial museums would be a great contribution. Traveling last summer I noticed a lot of improvement in museum and tourism information center infrastructure (Sataplia, Nakalakevi, Alexander Chavchavadze's estate in Tsinandali, Nekresi, Gremi, Kvareli, Dmanisi) but a common problem in many of these places (Tsinandali being a huge exception) is as follows: the physical infrastructure has been improved, but management sucks; renovation and reconstruction projects are well financed, but there is no funding for maintenance. Sataplia is the best example of predicament. One pays 6 GEL to enter, but: the toilets are worse than in the Soviet army, there is one guide per 100 tourist, and he does not speak a word of English.

I very much agree. Even improving the existing provincial museums would be a great contribution. Traveling last summer I noticed a lot of improvement in museum and tourism information center infrastructure (Sataplia, Nakalakevi, Alexander Chavchavadze's estate in Tsinandali, Nekresi, Gremi, Kvareli, Dmanisi) but a common problem in many of these places (Tsinandali being a huge exception) is as follows: the physical infrastructure has been improved, but management sucks; renovation and reconstruction projects are well financed, but there is no funding for maintenance. Sataplia is the best example of predicament. One pays 6 GEL to enter, but: the toilets are worse than in the Soviet army, there is one guide per 100 tourist, and he does not speak a word of English.
Guest - Leqso on Thursday, 01 December 2011 15:41

Totally agree. Another example of poor management might be the management of Stalin Museum in Gori, I think the museum with the biggest potential in Georgia. I used to visit this museum thousand times in my childhood, as my school was two steps away from it, and even back to those times(1995-96) when not many people knew about Georgia, I could always notice buses full of tourists coming especially to visit Stalin's museum.

During my last visit, a few months ago, I could not notice any significant improvement neither in terms of service nor infrastructure. However, ticket costs 20 GEL, that is fairly big amount. Although I am sure visitors will even agree to pay more if management will start modernization of museum. Best solution will be just to copy the experience of Baltic states, they perfectly utilize this potential and their soviet occupation museums attract lots of tourists.
I am sure, if there will be enough attention to this museum attracting investments for the initial renovations will never be a problem, taking into account huge potential of this museum.
From the practical point of view, it is far more desirable to utilize existing potential of Georgian museums, rather than building the niche of Georgia as contemporary art destination.

Totally agree. Another example of poor management might be the management of Stalin Museum in Gori, I think the museum with the biggest potential in Georgia. I used to visit this museum thousand times in my childhood, as my school was two steps away from it, and even back to those times(1995-96) when not many people knew about Georgia, I could always notice buses full of tourists coming especially to visit Stalin's museum. During my last visit, a few months ago, I could not notice any significant improvement neither in terms of service nor infrastructure. However, ticket costs 20 GEL, that is fairly big amount. Although I am sure visitors will even agree to pay more if management will start modernization of museum. Best solution will be just to copy the experience of Baltic states, they perfectly utilize this potential and their soviet occupation museums attract lots of tourists. I am sure, if there will be enough attention to this museum attracting investments for the initial renovations will never be a problem, taking into account huge potential of this museum. From the practical point of view, it is far more desirable to utilize existing potential of Georgian museums, rather than building the niche of Georgia as contemporary art destination.
Guest - Michael on Thursday, 01 December 2011 15:53

The Stalin museum is a case in point. It could be a museum that not only attracts tourists, but also documents and educates about the past. It does neither at the moment. A great example is www.sovlab.ge, a Georgian NGO. They developed a map of Tbilisi that indicates buildings associated with the Stalinist repression. See http://sovlab.ge/projects/finished/redterrortopography. This is not only great for tourists with an interest in history; but more importantly documents an important part of history.

The Stalin museum is a case in point. It could be a museum that not only attracts tourists, but also documents and educates about the past. It does neither at the moment. A great example is www.sovlab.ge, a Georgian NGO. They developed a map of Tbilisi that indicates buildings associated with the Stalinist repression. See http://sovlab.ge/projects/finished/redterrortopography. This is not only great for tourists with an interest in history; but more importantly documents an important part of history.
Guest - Zak on Thursday, 01 December 2011 17:14

Indeed replicating the Bilbao success is a very hard task. I guess Ivanishvili should go for a general fine art museum and donate his private collection for the purpose. Then we'll be off to a good start. After all his collection includes two out of three most expensive pieces of art ever sold publicly.

Indeed replicating the Bilbao success is a very hard task. I guess Ivanishvili should go for a general fine art museum and donate his private collection for the purpose. Then we'll be off to a good start. After all his collection includes two out of three most expensive pieces of art ever sold publicly.
Guest - Yasya on Friday, 02 December 2011 02:26

Agree - a museum with even a few important pieces of art would attract not only connoisseurs but also regular tourists- if coupled with other cultural attractions.

Of course Mona Lisa is already taken, but there are still plenty of options out there!

Agree - a museum with even a few important pieces of art would attract not only connoisseurs but also regular tourists- if coupled with other cultural attractions. Of course Mona Lisa is already taken, but there are still plenty of options out there!
Guest - Eric on Wednesday, 11 January 2012 03:19

Jan. 10 (Bloomberg) -- The Guggenheim Foundation proposed establishing a fourth European museum in the Helsinki harbor to help the Nordic city increase tourism and strengthen its image as a design and technology hub.

The museum on the site of a former ship terminal could be opened in 2018, the City of Helsinki said today in a report. The city and the New York-based foundation still must decide whether to proceed with the project.

Helsinki is competing with other medium-sized cities around Europe for tourism as well as for investments in creative, fast- growth businesses such as software. The New York Times last week placed Finland’s biggest city second after Panama on its list of places to go this year, citing its position as World Design Capital 2012 and the Music Center that opened last year.

“The Guggenheim Helsinki would have a stronger focus on architecture and design than other Guggenheim affiliates,” according to the report.

The 140 million-euro ($179 million) Helsinki museum project is “largely conceived as a non-collecting institution” that would host traveling exhibitions of contemporary art, including shows from Russian museums. The museum would serve as a “center of gravity” for the city’s other museums and a “town green” for social events, offering extended opening hours and free public access to some areas.

New Visitors

Attendance is estimated at about half a million people per year, including 45 percent foreign visitors and 65,000 new visitors to the city, according to the midrange scenario in the report. The project was conceived as an idea a year ago.

The Guggenheim Bilbao museum in Spain, designed by Frank Gehry, has attracted more than 10 million visitors since it was first opened in 1997. The Bilbao museum will have right of approval of the Helsinki museum. The foundation also operates museums in New York, Berlin, Venice and Abu Dhabi.

“Helsinki now has an incredible possibility that we should embrace,” Mayor Jussi Pajunen said in a statement. “The Guggenheim Museum would be a distinct place in Finland’s cultural landscape.”

Jan. 10 (Bloomberg) -- The Guggenheim Foundation proposed establishing a fourth European museum in the Helsinki harbor to help the Nordic city increase tourism and strengthen its image as a design and technology hub. The museum on the site of a former ship terminal could be opened in 2018, the City of Helsinki said today in a report. The city and the New York-based foundation still must decide whether to proceed with the project. Helsinki is competing with other medium-sized cities around Europe for tourism as well as for investments in creative, fast- growth businesses such as software. The New York Times last week placed Finland’s biggest city second after Panama on its list of places to go this year, citing its position as World Design Capital 2012 and the Music Center that opened last year. “The Guggenheim Helsinki would have a stronger focus on architecture and design than other Guggenheim affiliates,” according to the report. The 140 million-euro ($179 million) Helsinki museum project is “largely conceived as a non-collecting institution” that would host traveling exhibitions of contemporary art, including shows from Russian museums. The museum would serve as a “center of gravity” for the city’s other museums and a “town green” for social events, offering extended opening hours and free public access to some areas. New Visitors Attendance is estimated at about half a million people per year, including 45 percent foreign visitors and 65,000 new visitors to the city, according to the midrange scenario in the report. The project was conceived as an idea a year ago. The Guggenheim Bilbao museum in Spain, designed by Frank Gehry, has attracted more than 10 million visitors since it was first opened in 1997. The Bilbao museum will have right of approval of the Helsinki museum. The foundation also operates museums in New York, Berlin, Venice and Abu Dhabi. “Helsinki now has an incredible possibility that we should embrace,” Mayor Jussi Pajunen said in a statement. “The Guggenheim Museum would be a distinct place in Finland’s cultural landscape.”
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