Take the Money and Run?

The Long Read

I discovered Platform’s work a few months ago at an early morning What Next? meeting, where Jane Trowell came to talk about the ethical fundraising policies they develop with arts organisations. So when I found out about the day-long event they were organising with Artsadmin – in partnership with Live Arts Development Agency and Home Live Arts, as part of a joint Catalyst project (Arts Council England’s programme for increasing fundraising capacity) I signed up straight away.

The room was packed with artists, arts professionals and activists eager to find answers to pressing questions: if we take ‘dirty’ money, stained with environmental or human rights abuse, are we complicit? Can you – should you – bite the hand that feeds you? Do you best change a system you disagree with from within, or by refusing to participate and using boycott tactics? What can be done, collectively, to secure the future of the arts?

By a nice stroke of calendar luck, the event was taking place only a few days after the long-awaited announcement of BP’s actual amount of cash sponsorship to the Tate – somewhere between £150,000 and £330,000 a year, which represents 0.5 to 1% of the gallery group’s total operating budget, and makes the heavy-handed use of BP’s logo and naming rights (“BP Walk Through British Art”…) seem grossly disproportionate. The revelation is timely, as BP’s current multi-year commitment to four large institutions (Tate, National Gallery, Royal Opera House and British Museum) is coming to an end in 2016, when it will be reconsidered. Without the facts, these institutions’ stakeholders – audience members, artists, staff, suppliers… – can’t weigh in to influence the negotiations. With these figures in hand, it becomes possible to have a debate about notions of public good, artistic integrity and corporate image.

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BP’s sponsorship in comparison to Tate’s other sources of revenue (source: Platform)

Platform and other activist groups such as “creative disobedience network” Liberate Tate have been campaigning for the past 3 years for this disclosure: a protracted process of filing Freedom of Information requests and battling on legal ground.

As a result, the Tate was forced to un-redact the minutes of its Ethic Committee that they had up to then chosen to black out. These show that the Committee expressed doubt regarding the balance between the money received and the potential damage to the Tate’s image, as well as its social and environmental responsibility as a public institution – and even if their final ‘executive’ decision was that this reputational risk was not yet outweighing the economic benefit, the doubt is still there.

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Extract from minutes of Tate’s Ethics Committee which scrutinised BP’s sponsorship in 2010 (source: Platform)

It’s thus with a positive spirit of achievement through collective action that the conference opened. Hosted in Toynbee Studios’ Art Deco theatre, it was a long but well structured series of short presentations by artists, producers, activists and academics, followed by panel discussions that cleverly included the audience as valued commenters themselves instead of requiring them to ask questions to the ‘experts’ on stage. The event was filmed, so I won’t attempt to give a linear narrative of the proceedings, but rather share a few of the great resources and ideas that I gained from that day.

Take the Money and Run: the Study Guide

As mentioned in a previous postTake the Money and Run? is a study guide based on 9 key texts that aims at providing readers with a set of critical tools, case studies and references to help arts organisations and artists take an informed position on their financial model. Texts include (hyperlinks are to publisher’s website or to PDF/online version whenever available):

1. Art for All: Their Policies and Our Culture (eds Mary Warnock and Marck Wallinger, 2000)
2. The Arm’s Length Principle and the Arts: An International Perspective – Past, Present and Future (Harry Hillman-Chartrand and Claire McCaughey, 1989) (online)
3. Using Art to Render Authenticity in Business (an Arts & Business publication, 2009) (pdf)
4. Free Exchange (Hans Haacke and Pierre Bourdieu, 1995) (pdf)
5. Privatisating Culture: Corporate Art Intervention since the 1990s (Chin-Tao Wu, 2003)
6. Changing the Performance: A Companion Guide to Arts, Business and Civic Engagement (Julia Rowntree, 2006)
7. Not If But When: Culture Beyond Oil (Platform, Liberate Tate and Art Not Oil, 2011) (online / pdf)
8. When Attitudes Become Form, Philipp Morris Becomes Sponsor: Arts Sponsorship in Europe against the background of development in America (Hubertus Butin, 2000) (online article)
9. Culture Incorporated: Museums, Artists and Corporate Sponsorships (Mark Rectanus, 2002)

 

Further Reading

Here are a few links to some of the books, reports and articles that got mentioned throughout the day to dig deeper into the thorny issue of art & money.

 

Picture This – A Portrait of 25 years of BP sponsorship (Platform, June 2014)

A report by Platform outlining 25 of BP’s “major environmental catastrophes, human rights violations, and backroom deals” – one for every year of the BP-National Portrait Gallery sponsorship deal – and featuring “an analysis on the role of art in society in relation to ethics and sponsorship.”

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Who funds the arts and why we should care (Rachel Spence, September 2014)

Rachel Spence – the Financial Times’ art critic – argued in a recent article that the lack of transparency in funding sources for large museums and biennials compromises the curatorial integrity and the credibility of public institutions. This article inspired an upcoming debate (closed to the public) organised by the Biennial Foundation – the worldwide network of art biennials – exploring “what effects financial resources have on supposedly independent curatorial and artistic narratives of major cultural events”.

A protest over Sydney Biennale’s sponsorship by Transfield, which runs immigration detention camps - (c) Amy Scaife/Van Thanh Rudd

A protest over Sydney Biennale’s sponsorship by Transfield, which runs immigration detention camps – (c) Amy Scaife/Van Thanh Rudd

Artwash: Big Oil and the Arts (Mel Evans, available April 2015)

Here’s a cheery introduction to Artwash by Mel Evans herself:

And the blurb from the publisher’s website:

As major oil companies face continual public backlash, many have found it helpful to engage in “art washing”—donating large sums to cultural institutions to shore up their good name. But what effect does this influx of oil money have on these institutions? Artwash explores the relationship between funding and the production of the arts, with particular focus on the role of big oil companies such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell.

Reflecting on the role and function of art galleries, Artwash considers how the association with oil money might impede these institutions in their cultural endeavors. Outside the gallery space, Mel Evans examines how corporate sponsorship of the arts can obscure the strategies of corporate executives to maintain brand identity and promote their public image through cultural philanthropy. Ultimately, Evans sounds a note of hope, presenting ways artists themselves have challenged the ethics of contemporary art galleries and examining how cultural institutions might change.

artwash big oil

Changing the Performance: A Companion Guide to Arts, Business and Civic Engagement (Julia Rowntree, 2006)

Julia Rowntree, former Development Director at LIFT, retraces20-odd years of action-research into the relationship between art, industry and society based on her fundraising experience at LIFT.

From the introduction:

“… the arts fundraising process is not just about raising money but also plays a vital role in social adaptation and resilience. This is because it can open up channels of communication, human connection, reflection and critique across conventional boundaries of power, expertise, culture and generation… The aim is to deepen self-understanding in the world of the arts as well as in comerce and communities. It seeks a three-way flow of inspiration, learning and public collaboration.”

changing the performance

Fair Play – Art, Performance and Neoliberalism (Jen Harvie, 2013)

A book by Jen Harvie (professor at Queen Mary University of London) exploring the “quality of participation in contemporary art and performance”.

From the publisher’s website:

What is the quality of participation in contemporary art and performance? Is it damaged by cultural policies introduced since the 1997 election of New Labour – and especially since the 2008 recession – which have ‘entrepreneurialized’ artists, cut arts funding and cultivated corporate philanthropy and the ‘creative industries’? Might it contribute to urban gentrification, particularly in London? Has its democratic potential been at all fortified by artists’ innovations in crowdfunding, pop-ups, networking, installation art and immersive theatre; their engagements with ideas of home and folk culture; and their practices of labour and craftsmanship? How can it enhance understanding of relationships between the individual and the group? How can it improve social welfare and nurture social life?

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The First White Paper for Culture (1965)

The very first White Paper for Culture, written by then-Minister of State for the Arts Jennie Lee, was published half a century ago this year. There seems to be no online version of this document, so I’ve copied extracts featured in Art for All? Their Policy and our Culture (a collection of over 60 texts and artworks ranging from political, philosophical and analytical texts, fiction, verse and images, edited by Mark Wallinger & Mary Warnock, featured on the Take the Money and Run? reading list).

Unsurprisingly but rather depressingly, all the issues we discuss today – State censorship, geographical balance of funding, arts education and democratisation of access, artists’ fair remuneration… – were already identified 50 years ago.

  • §1 The relationship between artist and State in a modern democratic community is not easily defined. No-one would wish State patronage to dictate taste or in any way restrict the liberty of even the most unorthodox and experimental of artists.
  • §2 But if a high level of artistic achievement is to be sustained and the best in the arts made more widely available, more generous and discriminating help is urgently needed, locally, regionally and nationally.
  • §10 If a sane balance of population between north and south, east and west, is to be achieved, this kind of development (regional and local facilities) is just as essential as any movement of industry or provision of public utility service. If the eager and gifted, to whom we must look for leadership in every field, are to feel as much at home in the north and west as in and near London, each region will require high points of artistic excellence.
  • §13 The financial difficulties that so many of today’s artists have to contend with must also be realistically examined.
  • §14 In any civilised community the arts and associated amenities, serious or comic, light or demanding, must occupy a central place. Their enjoyment should not be regarded as something remote from everyday life. The promotion and appreciation of high standards in architecture, in industrial design, in town planning and the preservation of the beauty of the countryside, are all part of it. Beginning in the schools, and reaching out into every corner of the nation’s life, in city and village, at home, at work, at play, there is an immense amount that could be done to improve the quality of contemporary life.
  • §15 There is no short-term solution for what by its very nature is a long-term problem. This is a field in which, even in the most favourable circumstances, it will never be possible to do as much as we want to do as quickly as we want to do it. But that is no excuse for not doing as much as we can and more than has hitherto been attempted.

 

Participants

Here are a few links to and videos from some of Take the Money and Run? participants.

Liberate Tate

A collective dedicated to taking creative disobedience against Tate until it drops its oil company funding, founded during a Tate workshop in January 2010 on art and activism where Tate curators preventively tried to censor the workshop participants from making interventions against Tate sponsors.

Reclaim Shakespeare Company

Like Liberate Tate, a member of the Art not Oil coalition, formed in response to BP’s sponsorship of the World Shakespeare Festival and the Royal Shakespeare Company as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Reclaim Shakespeare Company  – also known as BP or Not BP? – are staging guerilla intervention on BP-sponsored stages in Stratford-upon-Avon, the West End, and at the British Museum to turn oil sponsorship into a hot topic within the theatre world.

General Ethical Resources

Corporate Watch

A workers’ coop “investigat(ing) the social and environmental impacts of corporations and corporate power”. Corporate Watch provides profiles of large companies and sectors, publishes research on ethics and business and produces reports and investigations available online.

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Ethical Consumer

“The hub of the ethical consumer movement” for the past 20 years, with a mission to “make global business more sustainable through consumer pressure”. Alongside the monthly print magazine, a online guide of 20,000 products powered by a sophisticated search engine assigning priorities based on 5 main criteria (below) that can be further broken down into sub-categories to draw the line even more precisely according to one’s principles (thus highlighting the difficulty of making a choice between all these principles):

  •  Animals
    • Animal Testing
    • Factory Farming
    • Animal Rights & Cruelty
  • Environment
    • Environmental Reporting
    • Nuclear Power
    • Climate Change
    • Pollution & Toxics
    • Habitats & Resources
  • People
    • Human Rights
    • Workers’ Rights
    • Supply Chain Management
    • Irresponsible Marketing
    • Arms & Military Supply
  •  Politics
    • Anti-Social Finance
    • Boycott Calls
    • Genetic Engineering
    • Political Activity
  • Sustainability
    • Company Ethos
    • Product Sustainability (organic, fairtrade, energy efficient, vegan & vegetarian products)

Ethical Consumer ratecard