No one is quite certain who coined the word egoseum. But it first appeared in the art press in 2009. It is, of course, a compound word made up of ‘ego’ and mu(‘seum’) and the unflattering tag refers to the rising tendency for wealthy collectors to create their own private museums to showcase their collections of art.
No doubt egos do exist amongst art collectors, but if you think of it, the motivation behind the phenomenon is quite old. Collections tend to transcend every mortal generation of art collector. So besides selling the works of art before you die, what is the alternative to donating collections to existing museums or building your own art temple?
It is no good being the richest man in the graveyard and the alternative of either burying the art with you or igniting it on a funeral pyre both seem preposterous. Without necessarily wanting to be remembered eternally as the person giving the public a big gift of cultural significance, there could be a deep-rooted and very personal wish of sharing the art without it being an act of narcissism.
What is new in all this, however, is that the museums are being built before many of the collecting oligarchs become old and frail.
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