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British business could learn valuable lessons from Japan, which has a tradition of corporate philanthropy that views spending on creativity and the arts as a duty, according to sculptor Antony Gormley.
He was speaking on Tuesday as he was announced as one of this year’s winners of the world’s richest arts prize. He was named as the sculpture laureate of the Praemium Imperiale awards, a Japanese prize in its 25th year, which rewards fields of achievement not covered by the Nobel prize.
The other winners were Francis Ford Coppola for film, Placido Domingo for music, Michelangelo Pistoletto for painting and David Chipperfield (whose recent buildings include Turner Contemporary in Margate and the Hepworth in Wakefield) for architecture.
Gormley said there were a number of foundations in Japan linked to corporations, citing the Inimori Foundation and the Daiwa Foundation as “exemplary institutions”, which saw it as their duty to use some of their profits to support creativity in a wider way. “I think they are really inspirational,” he said.
In Japan, he added, there was an extraordinary number of foundations where there was “an absolute belief in the duty of corporate money to reinvest in a collective future. There are examples in this country but there could be more”.
As all public funding for the arts comes under the biggest assault in living memory, it is natural and necessary to assert that museums and galleries are beacons of civilisation, to be protected. Free museum entry is a marvel of British culture. And yet … let’s not close our minds. Otherwise the debates will happen among the coalition’s radical thinkers, and defenders of museums will find themselves sidestepped. To ask one radical question: does not the British love affair with contemporary art totally undermine the culture of public funding for the arts? Damien Hirst is one of the richest artists in history; the most prestigious event in the visual art calendar is the Frieze art fair. None of this has much to do with state subsidies – does it?
The always readable critic Waldemar Januszczak wrote recently in praise of Charles Saatchi. It was Saatchi, not Serota, who created the British modern art boom, he argued. The current reverence for the Tate is, in his eyes, misplaced – actually it was a private collector who launched our addiction to the new.
There is, absolutely, a case to be made that art is a commodity, full stop. Britain’s famous artists believe that more openly than anyone. But the truth is more complicated (surprise).
The art marketplace is in reality a splendid example of a mixed economy. The rise of the Hirst generation depended on constant interaction of private and public enthusiasm. Above all, it depended on the Turner prize, whose authority depended in turn on its being staged by a public museum.
The enigmatic ad-man turned art collector Charles Saatchi is to hand to the nation his Chelsea gallery and more than 200 works – including pieces by Tracey Emin, Grayson Perry and the Chapman Brothers.
Saatchi, 67, announced today that the 70,000 sq ft gallery would be renamed MOCA London (Museum of Contemporary Art, London) when he retires, and would feature “a strong, rotating permanent collection of major installations”, all of it free to the public.
As world economics have changed, so too has the world of the performing arts. Orchestras and opera companies around America have reduced productivity, laid off staff and some have even closed after many years serving their communities.
Sometimes the culprit was a lack of ticket sales or poor management. But the primary cause for all of our struggles has been the inability to close the income gap between the real cost of producing the art and the revenue earned from ticket sales. Most of the performing arts need at least 50 percent of their revenue in contributions, and right now contributions are very difficult to find.
In too many of our cities, the burden of supporting the not-for-profits, and particularly opera, symphony and theater, has fallen upon the shoulders of too few trying to support so much for so many.
Visit any city and compare the donor lists for major not-for-profits and you will see many of the same names; generous people who believe in leaving a legacy for future generations. They have invested in their community. But they will not be here forever.