With important paintings fetching eight-figure sums at auction, the aggregate value of the collection of a big art museum’s collection represents billions of dollars. Why don’t the boards of those museums ask the managers to show that they are producing, in some nonfinancial but quantifiable sense, an adequate return on that stock of capital?
Here’s my more pointed version of that question: Why are most art museums open most afternoons and few or no evenings? If a clothing store in a mall stays open twelve hours seven days a week, why doesn’t the art museum?
And once you had it open at times when people who work or go to school socialize, what could you do to make it one of the cool places in town to hang out?
(Note: O’Hare was last seen discussing with Eugene Volokh how to pay for music now that file-sharing has made music largely non-excludable as well as non-rival in consumption. I hope to have a postable version of that exchange soon. It turns out that any system of paying according to the number of times a piece is listened to needs to be, and can be, modified to avoid certain kinds of gaming, by restricting the number of times per day any single person’s listening behavior counts in the distribution of royalties.)