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Museums between Private and Public - The Case of the Beyeler Museum in Basle

  • Bruno S. Frey
  • Stephan Meier

In Europe, ever more private museums are now entering the field. This paper investigates the behavior of one of these private museums, using an institutional approach of cultural economics. The Beyeler museum in Basle, Switzerland, is a privately founded art museum with an extraordinary collection of art works. Though less than five years old, it is acknowledged to be the most successful museum in Switzerland in terms of number of visitors. However, the Beyeler museum is not completely private but receives public support. We analyze how this influences the museum's behavior: (1) The directorate of the Beyeler museum stays away from the art market with its collection as public institutions do. (2) The museum embarks on a self-propelling process concerning special exhibitions, therewith losing some of its uniqueness. (3) Concerning visitors' amenities, differences between private and public museums emerge but to a lesser extent than expected according to theory.

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Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 116.

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Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:116
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  1. Frey, Bruno S, 1994. "Cultural Economics and Museum Behaviour," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 41(3), pages 325-35, August.
  2. Hirshleifer, Jack, 1985. "The Expanding Domain of Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(6), pages 53-68, December.
  3. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, . "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," IEW - Working Papers 010, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  4. John O'hagan, 1998. "Art Museums: Collections, Deaccessioning and Donations," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer, vol. 22(2), pages 197-207, June.
  5. Stigler, George J, 1984. " Economics-The Imperial Science?," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 86(3), pages 301-13.
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