art, money, and the corporate world

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by benjamin weil on May 09, 1997 at 18:55:22:

Timothy Druckrey's posting brings up a really important issue, in regards to the way art is being financed, when it no longer manifests itself within the comfort of the art world circuits, namely: unique collectible objects to be treasured, sold, and resold.

Public art funding often comes from corporations, who want to show an image of enlightenment by hiring artists to polish their brand and identity in a different way. Whether it is possible or not to produce art that is challenging in this environment remains a core issue. The current state of things lets me think that the support of corporations is something that will increase, in the light of dwindling government support worldwide. It is therefore more than ever time to find strategies so to be able to work with that corporate money in a way that does not compromise the provocative qualities of a "good" work of art.

It could make sense to research history, as the way most of the "old masters" we celebrate today as geniuses used to work was very much conditioned by a type of patronage that included an enormous amount of formal constraints (the subject matter, the size of the canvas or the sculpture, and - in the case of painting - the kind and amount of pigments). Still, we value those works. And the reason is probably that those artists managed to circumvent the constraints, or, rather, use them profitably to achieve what are considered masterpieces today.

Establishing criteria for the "evaluation" of corporate art commissions is somehow hindered by a well grounded - and often enough, justified - suspicion on the interests it serves. However, the commisssioned artist is maybe too often and too quickly assumed to have a peripatetic attitude when accepting - embracing - this mode of financing her/his research.

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