Larry’s List publishes a Private Art Museum Report in light of the unprecedented boom of private museums in the past decade.

Art Radar brings you key points from the first comprehensive study on privately funded contemporary art museums operating around the world today. 

Win a copy of Larry’s List Private Art Museum Report! Scroll down for details.

Private Art Museum Report - edited by Larry's List Ltd. and AMMA.

Private Art Museum Report, edited by Larry’s List Ltd. and AMMA.

Larry’s List, leading Hong Kong-based art market research company founded in 2012, published its inaugural Private Art Museum Report last month. The Report draws on Larry’s List’s private contemporary art collector database as well as a survey jointly executed with art market intelligence firm AMMA (Art Market Monitor of Artron) conducted with over 166 private art museums from over 40 countries. Art Radar brings you key points from the report.

Rise of the private contemporary art museum

According to the Report, there are 317 privately funded contemporary art museums in the world today. 70 percent of these were founded after 2000, and one fifth opened just in the past five years. More than 35 percent of private museums have over 20,000 visitors per year, a statistic that points to their rising importance and influence. The Report’s Introduction reads:

The number of visitors attending private museums often equals public institutions. Private museums are running […] full-fledged academic programs, launching publications, and offering artist-in-residencies […]. The quality of artworks displayed and the shows curated rival or even surpass institutional exhibitions, often being recognised not only locally but also on an international art level, especially in the field of contemporary art.

The Report states that private spaces often fill a gap in a region’s art and cultural offerings, particularly in countries with limited institutional infrastructures. Furthermore,

even [for regions with] a full-fledged institutional structure in place, private museums still greatly impact the cultural landscape […]. Additionally, despite the fact that many collectors own private museums, this does not signify that they fail to engage or collaborate with public museums and institutions. We see many examples where private and public efforts go hand in hand and where private museum founders often compensate for the lack of public funding.

Arario Museum, Seoul. Image from Private Museums Art Report - edited by Larry’s List Ltd. and AMMA.

Arario Museum, Seoul. Image from Private Museums Art Report, edited by Larry’s List Ltd. and AMMA.

18th century Rome and contemporary Seoul: A comparison 

With 45 privately funded museums, South Korea currently has the highest number of private art museums in the world. In second place is the United States with 43 such institutions, followed by Germany (42), China (26), Italy (19) and Japan (11). For cities with the most private art museums, Seoul leads the ranking with 13, followed by Beijing and Berlin with 9 each.

Private museums in Seoul include the Daelim Museum and the Savina Museum, which the Report states have “helped bring contemporary art closer to the public since the 1990s”. Notably, the Korean island of Jeju is also represented in the top ten cities with the most private art museums. All four museums in Jeju were founded by self-made Korean billionaire and collector Kim Chang-Il, who owns one of the largest contemporary art collections in the world.

In the Report, an essay by Dr. Christine Howald entitled “Private Museums over the Centuries, or: What 18th century Rome and Contemporary Seoul have in common” states that the current trend has a predecessor in early Modern Europe, during which collectors were just as keen to show their collections. According to Howald, an immense boom of private art collections can be registered in both cases. Howald also arrives at a main difference:

The access policies of most of the museums surveyed (55% of them are free of charge) underline that private museums manifest the strong wish among today’s collectors to share their artworks with the public […]. This brings out one main difference between early modern accessible private art collections and today’s private museums: it is no longer the inquisitive visitor who asks for access, but the collector him- or herself who opens the doors to the collection.

"Breaking Through to the Actual via the Imagination", 28 November 2015 - 28 February 2016, Long Museum West Bund, Shanghai. Installation view. Photo: Andrew J Stooke. Image courtesy the author.

“Breaking Through to the Actual via the Imagination”, 28 November 2015 – 28 February 2016, Long Museum West Bund, Shanghai. Installation view. Photo: Andrew J Stooke. Image courtesy Andrew Stooke.

Win a copy of Larry’s List Private Art Museum Report! Scroll down for details.

Looking ahead: China and the Middle East

In a study of China’s private art museum landscape, the Report states that Chinese collectors’ motivations to build private museums are fourfold: first, because there were no other private contemporary art museums in their region; second, because the public display of their collections would help them to achieve a personal sense of actualisation; third, for the simple pleasure of sharing contemporary art with the public; and fourth, because they hope to build a contemporary art ecosystem.

The Report predicts continued dynamic development in regard to new private art museum setups, especially in China and the Middle East. For China, recently opened world-class museums such as the Yuz Museum in Shanghai by Budi Tek and the Long Museum by Chinese couple Wang Wei and Liu Yiqian “demonstrate that Chinese private museums can keep pace with the West, not only in terms of the sum of museums opened, but also in terms of the quality of the collections exhibited”.

With regards to the Middle East, while the region currently hosts only two percent of the total number of private museums in the world (compared to Europe’s 45 percent and Asia’s 33 percent), the Report predicts increasing activity in the field.

Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, 'Freedom', steel box, high-pressure hydraulic pump and high pressure hose, electronic control system, dimensions variable, 2009. Photo JJYPHOTO, courtesy Yuz Museum.

Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, ‘Freedom’, 2009, steel box, high-pressure hydraulic pump and high pressure hose, electronic control system, dimensions variable.
Photo: JJYPHOTO. Image courtesy Yuz Museum.

Continued dedication and cooperation

The Report also foresees greater cooperation between different private institutions. The study states that competition is a positive force that creates the critical mass needed to attract visitors to destination points – a phenomenon that is ultimately beneficial for all museums. In addition,

During recent years, networks have been founded to increase the number of partnerships between private museums. Such cooperative relations will consist of loaning works, presenting travelling exhibitions and also sharing knowledge.

Speaking to The Art Newspaper, Larry’s List founder and author of the Report comments:

What I personally found very exciting over the course of the study was to see the dedication and resources the collectors are putting into setting up and operating a private museum and by doing so they are very often filling a gap in a region’s museum infrastructure. 

Michele Chan


To win a copy of Larry’s List Private Art Museum Report:

  1. Answer these two questions:

i) What was the name of the installation by Random International which was recently shown (2015) at the Yuz Museum in its largest format ever?

ii) What artwork did Long Museum’s Founder Liu Yiqian buy for USD170 million in 2015?

2. Share this article and another Art Radar article published from January 2016 until now on any social network of your choice (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+), and take a screenshot of the shares.

3. Email your answers and the screenshots, as well as your personal details to, writing “Larry’s List Private Art Museum Report Competition” in the subject line.

4. To win the book you must be a subscriber of Art Radar, so sign up via emailFacebookLinkedIn or Twitter.

We will select the lucky winners by random draw. 

Competition closes on 6 March 2015, so hurry!

Related Topics: museums, collectors, reports, market transparency, market watch, resource alert

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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