Venue. An art museum or art gallery is a building or space for the display of art, usually from the museum's own collection. It might be in public or private ownership and may be accessible to all or have restrictions in place. Although primarily concerned with visual art, art galleries are often used as a venue for other cultural exchanges and artistic activities, such as performance arts, music concerts, or poetry readings. Art museums also frequently host themed temporary exhibitions which often include items on loan from other collections. In distinction to a commercial art gallery, run by an art dealer, the primary purpose of an art museum is not the sale of the items on show. Throughout history, large and expensive works of art have generally been commissioned by religious institutions and monarchs and been displayed in temples, churches, and palaces. Although these collections of art were private, they were often made available for viewing for a portion of the public. In classical times, religious institutions began to function as an early form of art gallery. Wealthy Roman collectors of engraved gems and other precious objects often donated their collections to temples. It is unclear how easy it was in practice for the public to view these items. In Europe, from the Late Medieval period onwards, areas in royal palaces, castles, and large country houses of the social elite were often made partially accessible to sections of the public, where art collections could be viewed. At the Palace of Versailles, entrance was restricted to people wearing the proper apparel-the appropriate accessories could be hired from shops outside. The treasuries of cathedrals and large churches, or parts of them, were often set out for public display. Many of the grander English country houses could be toured by the respectable for a tip to the housekeeper, during the long periods when the family were not in residence. Special arrangements were made to allow the public to see many royal or private collections placed in galleries, as with most of the paintings of the Orleans Collection, which were housed in a wing of the Palais-Royal in Paris and could be visited for most of the 18th century. In Italy, the art tourism of the Grand Tour became a major industry from the 18th century onwards, and cities made efforts to make their key works accessible. The Capitoline Museums began in 1471 with a donation of classical sculpture to the city of Rome by the Papacy, while the Vatican Museums, whose collections are still owned by the Pope, trace their foundation to 1506, when the recently discovered Laocoön and His Sons was put on public display. A series of museums on different subjects were opened over subsequent centuries, and many of the buildings of the Vatican were purpose-built as galleries. An early royal treasury opened to the public was the Grünes Gewölbe of the Kingdom of Saxony in the 1720s. Privately established museums open to the public began to be established from the 17th century onwards, often based around a collection of the cabinet of curiosities type. The first such museum was the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, opened in 1683 to house and display the artefacts of Elias Ashmole that were given to Oxford University in a bequest. The Kunstmuseum Basel, through its lineage which extends back to the Amerbach Cabinet, a collection of works by Hans Holbein purchased by the city of Basel in 1661, is an early municipally owned museum. In the second half of the eighteenth century, many private collections of art were opened to the public, and during and after the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars many royal collections were nationalized, even where the monarchy remained in place, as in Spain and Bavaria. In 1753, the British Museum was established and the Old Royal Library collection of manuscripts was donated to it for public viewing. In 1777, a proposal to the British government was put forward by MP John Wilkes to buy the art collection of the then late Sir Robert Walpole who had amassed one of the greatest such collections in Europe, and house it in a specially built wing of the British Museum for public viewing. After much debate, the idea was eventually abandoned due to the great expense, and twenty years later, the collection was bought by Tsaritsa Catherine the Great of Russia and housed in the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. The Bavarian royal collection was opened to the public in 1779 and the Medici collection in Florence around 1789.
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