Sarah Galer, Belgian-Argentinean trained in Philosophy and Cultural Management, has a long history in museums, mainly in the fund development sector, and a multicultural perspective nourished by various experiences. She lived for many years in Paris, today she is installed in Buenos Aires where she plans to dedicate to international cooperation projects with France and Belgium after having passed through the Museum of Modern Art in this city.
Sarah entered the museum world through a rare door: the Shoah Memorial in Paris, a memory institution that is, at the same time, a history museum where she worked in the area of education. Then she completed an internship at the Centquatre, an active Parisian transdisciplinary cultural center; and later worked on audience development at the Quai Branly Museum, an institution dedicated to non-western arts with an impeccable museography contained in a magnificent building designed by architect Jean Nouvel. Finally, she entered the great Louvre Museum.
How was the experience of diving into the financial development area of the most important museum in the world, “the Louvre”, which has an annual budget of 240 million euros?
“It is impressive to work at the Louvre. It is immense. Around 3,000 people work there. The team of the Fund Development Department was numerous because the activity was very intense: I was dedicated to sponsors and patrons, another person to the development of the “Louvre” brand (which was sold, for example, to the United Arab Emirates for the Louvre Abu Dhabi or to Lego for the creation of the Louvre pyramid by the famous little bricks), others to events and, finally, two people dedicated exclusively to crowfounding campaigns (the Louvre was one of the first museums to make mass calls to the public to contribute to the acquisition or restoration of a work). ”
How does the dynamics of financing an institution of this type work: a national museum with a great autonomy in management? Do you think it could function as a model to be transferred to other museums?
“The Louvre is a museum school. Everyone passes by before working in other Parisian museums. Former colleagues in the fund development sector of the Louvre are today at the Centquatre, the Palais de Tokyo, the Quai branly, or the Musée d’art Moderne.
Everything was done with great rigor, to trace the visibility of the Louvre and take care of its image. It is necessary to be very cautious when selecting with whom the collaboration is armed to avoid media problems.
It is essential to preserve the museum from the corporate world: the corporate world must support the museum and not the other way around. To put limits. The business must not invade the museum. In developing funds, one walks a narrow thread between the corporate world and the wishes of the patrons, on one hand, and the world of the museum and the content of the curatorship, on the other. With diplomacy, it is about making everyone happy. ”
Is there anything from this rich experience in France that you could apply as Head of Fund Development at the Modern Museum of Buenos Aires? On the other hand, what did you learn in the Modern Museum that you have not experienced in the Louvre?
“Corporations expect benefits in exchange for their contributions to the museum. What is returned to the corporation has a value (private guided tours, tickets, catalogs, etc.) that must not exceed 25% of the donation (in France it is regulated by law). In the Modern Museum of Buenos Aires I was very attentive to this. It was being done intuitively before but I systematized it, I put values to each benefit (although sometimes they are fictitious). It is important not to give unlimited profits to corporations.
It was a challenge to go from the Louvre’s pyramid structure with defined hierarchies where everything is checked many times to the Modern Museum’s informal and flexible organization.
I brought new things to the way the team worked but I had to adapt myself to a structure that is far away from the Louvre’s. In the Modern there is un enormous productivity with few resources. What impressed me when I arrived is that there is a lot of professionalism. I found very positive the way we work here: much more agile and, after all, more projects can be carried out. The problem is that there is no time to sit, think and plan. During the year that I worked in the museum: many collaborators entered, we formed a new acquisitions committee, we traveled to New York where a new circle of patrons was formed… It was a great learning: letting myself go with the flow and manage with what there is. ”
After this time of global pandemic, museums will have to reinvent themselves. What strategies do you think are feasible to carry out to face these new times?
“It is difficult to know what form the cultural cooperation and the museums of tomorrow will take. The objective of museums has until recently been to increase the audience. All the museums in the world were concerned with reaching an increasing number of visitors with the leitmotif of their democratization. Understandable question if it is considered that in massive museums (such as the Louvre) 60-70% of private financing is obtained through the sale of entrance tickets. But this objective was also imposed in museums such as the Modern Museum of Bs As. This is over. We must ask ourselves again: what is the objective of the artwork? Facing the artwork will be something very personal, more human. I think that will be the new axis. When the museums reopen it will be a new experience. ”