Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Controversial Funding

Arts organizations have social responsibility what about their funders?


During these next two years I will learn everything I can regarding funding policies and programing in the arts. I am aware that there are a variety of issues that come hand in hand with arts management, the relation between funding policies and programming are particularly interesting which is why this article caught my attention.

This article presents several examples of the delicate task of finding sources of funding for the arts. There are two main problems involved here: 1) disparate values among both parties and 2) the possibility that the sponsorship may influence or determine artistic freedom. As an arts manager I think every case should be considered in its context. That being said, does a public museum have more social responsibility that an art fair? I think it surely does. I went to a specific site installation (part of HK Arts Basel) sponsored by Absolut Vodka that was incredibly edgy and thoughtful. The artist in question received significant funding from the sponsor even though its only visible representation was the drinks.

As I mentioned in other posts, with the the economic crisis, european organizations had to increase their percentage of corporate funding as this change represents a novelty in the system and so not everything has been fully taken into account. According to the article, the information (contract conditions and policies) behind “these relations” are not publicly available or transparent – even when dealing with public organizations. I do agree with Rachel Spence´s argument that transparency may be a first step to resolution.

If the art world finds itself with more moral watchdogs snapping at its heels than ever before, it is partly as a result of its unprecedented growth. Every year, we see more biennials, new museums, the expansion of older museums and glossier shows, all of which must be funded. Simultaneously, more artists are making works with a political and social resonance. “Culture is much more politicised,” says Esche. “The changes in funding are going in hand in hand with changes in the kind of role that artists are demanding.”

A new commitment to openness will not neutralise the situation but it may defuse it a little. “Transparency is essential,” observes Esche. “So far it’s happening as a struggle rather than a protocol. It needs to become a protocol.”


2 comments on “Controversial Funding

  1. jessicamallow
    September 26, 2014

    Great remarks on a very interesting article! I agree with you both, that transparency is the key. Without making a blanket statement that the world is becoming more openly political, it appears to be so through the creation of new expressive works for which the individuals involved in that society finally, at this time in history, have the confidence to produce. And as difficult as it is to procure funding, I can see how it could be tempting for many arts institutions to want to accept the offers; if being transparent about it will get them into trouble with their artists or donors because of content, that may mean that accepting the funding appears as them taking a political stand. Which, generally speaking, we’ve been told to try to avoid! However, is there a more delicate way to balance it?

  2. sarasps85
    September 30, 2014

    Thank you for your comment. I think arts and politics are becoming inseparable and that can represent a big challenge for artists that distance themselves from that. Either because they do not know much (creation is their only incentive) or simply because they do not want to get involve. However, I think it is not up to them anymore due to funding reasons and the increasing impact of arts in society. Arts managers are the mediators on these ethical and political issues. But, like you I honestly do not know how to balance it more diplomatically.

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