Per Hedström, acting director general, writes about the consequences of the underfunding of Nationalmuseum's activities.
Nationalmuseum has been in the media spotlight recently. Headlines such as “Leases consume operating budget of national cultural institutions” (Dagens Nyheter, 23 Aug 2023), “Museum crisis means fewer art exhibitions” (TT News Agency, 26 Aug 2023), “Nationalmuseum may be forced to move” (Svenska Dagbladet, 28 Aug 2023) and “Nationalmuseum may close permanently: situation critical” (Aftonbladet, 31 Aug 2023) have drawn attention to the underfunding of the museum’s activities.
Nationalmuseum’s growing deficit is undermining our entire operation. This deficit is largely a direct or indirect result of the costly major renovation of the museum building that took place a few years ago. The government-approved renovation project cost around SEK 1.3 billion. There is now a risk that this substantial public investment in a beautiful, fit-for-purpose museum building will lead to the activities the building was intended to house being starved of funding.
With a view to avoiding an overly fast and dramatic deterioration in our financial position, Nationalmuseum is pursuing large cost savings this year. These include reducing the number of temporary exhibitions, extending the duration of existing exhibitions, and closing for an extra day each week (Tuesdays). However, in relation to the burgeoning deficit, the scope for cost savings is small. It should be noted that Nationalmuseum’s current budget allocation is low compared with those of the national art museums in the other Nordic countries, such as Nasjonalmuseet in Oslo and Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen. To balance the books, Nationalmuseum needs a budget increase of SEK 40 million. We cannot reverse the decline through our own efforts alone.
Assuming there is no drastic increase in Nationalmuseum’s budget allocation, we now foresee two possible courses of action: either close the museum, or vacate the building and look for more affordable premises. Clearly, both options are undesirable. We hope such action can be avoided, but that will require urgent government intervention.
/Per Hedström, acting director general