Re: art, money, and the corporate world

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by Matt Locke on June 27, 1997 at 05:25:25:

In Reply to: Re: art, money, and the corporate world posted by shu lea cheang on June 24, 1997 at 17:55:45:

Its interesting, from a british viewpoint, to see these comments on the shotgun weddings of art and commerce. Although the sponorship of a site, project or exhibition is always problematic, it has become such a neccesary condition for making new work that the negotiation of terms and conditions on both sides of the equation (artist/sponsor) almost becomes a fine art in itself.
One of the deciding factors in the distribution of the huge influx of arts funding since the introduction of the National Lottery over here has been the need to provide up to 25% of the grant as match funding.
The result of this has been an expansion of bureaucracy within arts institutions, as plans for expansion hinge on attracting funding partners, normally from the private sector. Time and effort normally spent on researching artistic or interpretative programmes is spent on dressing up the instituition's profile in order to land a increasingly hard to find commercial sponsor.
This is not always a bad thing however, as Becks sponsorship of Artangel's excellent installation projects has shown. Artangel have no permanent location, and exist purely to realise one or two major projects a year, usually of a scale way outside the possibility of a site-bound institution (Rachel Whitread's excellent 'House' project was an Artangel production). Becks support has matured from simple revenue sponsorship to the total funding of one complete project a year (called the Artangel/Becks commission).
Elsewhere, as the ICA in London has seen public funding slashed in half this year, support from Toshiba (and a recent auction of artworks donated from the yba crowd), has been more crucial than ever.
I can understand how this may seem all to cosy from the other side of the atlantic, but there's something in the nature of these partnerships that is more than a simple co-opting of cultural initiative by the commercial sector.
It does not just stem from the fiscal need (via the National Lottery) for institutions to embrace sponsors, but partly from attitudes formed at the ground level of the current artistic generation.
For the last 10-15 years, the enterprise of young british artists in curating and exhibiting their own work has become almost legendary. Whether it is the legacy of the hard-core free market economy that 'Thatcher's children' grew up with or not, there has been a 'can-do' attitude to controlling the production & distribution of artist's own work outside of the existing gallery structures.
From the seminal exhibitions 'freeze', 'gambler' and 'modern medicine' to the current healthy state of various artist-run spaces, such as the Transmission in Glasgow and City Racing in London, there has always been some commercial support, whether it is from specialist technology companies assisting the production of works or simply a drinks company helping everyone get pissed at the opening.
For the drinks companies in particular, art is the new rock and roll, and bankrolling the exploits of hirst, lucas, emin et al provides good pr and a crucial credibility with that difficult 18-30 marketing group. Some kind of apothesis was reached recently with the painting survey show 'About vision' producing advertising that carefully halftoned the name of its sponsor so the show's title switched between 'About Vision' and 'Absolut Vision'.
But somehow, the bouyant economy of the British art scene mirrors a general post election feel-good factor so that art/commerce divisions become slightly irrelevant. We're all having a party right now, right?, so who cares who picks up the bar bill?
What will prove interesting is how strong these love affairs may be, and whether any future economic turn-down results in commercial partners slipping away, leaving arts organisations reliant on radically stripped public funding for support.

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