The Foundation Art Institutions of the 21st Century (AI21C) was established in London in 2017 as CIO* and not-for-profit arm of the art consultancy Montabonel & Partners, with the intention of acting at the intersection of the public and private art sectors.
Its aim is to identify factors that affect the stability of today’s Contemporary Art institutions, in order to contribute to their sustainability in the fast-moving political, economic, and aesthetic context. We use the term ‘institutions’ to refer to cultural agencies that are both instigators of change and recipients of transformation: public and private museums, commercial galleries, not-for-profit project spaces, artists’ studios or estates, art schools, and biennials.
AI21C has developed collaborative activities such as workshops, symposia, networking events and large-scale exhibition projects through which to identify thematic research, consolidated in specialist research reports. These publications which are freely available in hard copy and digital form include: ‘Going Public: How Can Public Art Institutions Unlock the Potential of Philanthropy?’ ‘Media in The Expanded Field’, ‘Art Institutions of the 21st Century’, ‘Audience Engagement: Why Ideology Became Business’, ‘The Tipping Point of Artists’ Estates: A Forecast’, ‘Privately Funded and Publically Minded: Art Institutions in Transition’ and ‘When Financial Products Shape Cultural Content’.
Through our activities, we hope to nurture the production of knowledge, to contribute to an understanding of the complex cultural field, and to foster greater cooperation between its key agents. We undertake research and promote education to provide art professionals with the tools to harness best practices from both public and private sectors in taking on today’s challenges, among which a shortage of public funding, the future of philanthropy, the impact of new technologies on display, effective audience engagement and the financial dimension of the new art economy.
 (Registered Charity Number 1173044)
Proposals to concretely address these shifting demands on institutions were generated through such initiatives as Going Public: International Art Collectors in Sheffield, which explored ways in which public galleries and philanthropists can build meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships. Co-originated by Sébastien Montabonel, the project brought works from some of Europe’s finest private collections of Modern & Contemporary art to Sheffield in a citywide exhibition program and symposium on the question ‘How can public art institutions unlock the potential of philanthropy?’. Endorsed by Minister of Culture Ed Vaizey, its findings featured in the first Culture White Paper drafted since 1965 in the UK.
Key issues highlighted through this event were further developed by our think tank ‘Media in the Expanded Field’ held at the Fundación Casa Wabi in Mexico and which assembled a select group of curators, artists, academics and museum professionals to discuss the impact of technology on art and its institutions.