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Museum Diplomacy: Spreading Influence Through Art and Culture

The arts are one way of exercising cultural influence on a global scale. Though we would often think of pop music as the top cultural export which any country could have, other means are emerging which could help countries exert some influence. One example is through museums.

Museums around the world in the 21st century are no longer solely dependent on government funding to operate internationally. Museums today build new branches in different countries, collaborate with global brands, and even generate their own profit.
Since the 2000s, when the Guggenheim Museum successfully implemented its global expansion, franchised museums have multiplied around the globe. Interestingly these strategies aren’t limited to Western museums.

Chinese and Russian initiatives are already making use of museums as a way of spreading their cultural influence abroad. Some examples being the K11 Art Mall which started in Hong Kong and the State Hermitage Museum from Russia.

These museums and foundations are using the same model that the Guggenheim implemented which was to franchise museums in different parts of the world along with collaboration as well as art programs and international exchange programs.

These cases from China and Russia do more than offer captivating examples of how the Guggenheim’s global expansion museum models have been successfully adopted and further transformed by museums beyond the western world.
They are evidence of emerging new alternative avenues of museum diplomacy that no longer depend on government commissions directed at serving immediate geo-political interests.

(Image credit: Baycrest/Wikimedia Commons; CC by SA 2.5)


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