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.

Tate-BP-sponsorship-comparison

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?

fair play

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

 

Art at all costs?

The Long Read

… the charismatic ideology of ‘creation’… undoubtedly constitutes the principal obstacle to a rigorous science of the production of the value of cultural goods. It is this charismatic ideology, in effect, which directs the gaze towards the apparent producer – painter, composer, writer – and prevents us from asking who has created this ‘creator’ and the magic power of transubstantiation with which the ‘creator’ is endowed. It also steers the gaze towards the most visible aspect of the process of production, that is, the material fabrication of the product, transfigured into ‘creation’, thereby avoiding any enquiry beyond the artist and the artist’s own activity into the conditions of this demiurgic capability.

– Pierre Bourdieu, in The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field

So if we follow Bourdieu, what is the – old and tired – myth of the artist-as-demiurge hiding? Where would it be steering our gaze away from?

There’s a big clue in this quote:

I don’t care where the money comes from. It could be rolled by the mafia. If it goes to the arts it becomes good money.
– Lord Goodman, Chair of the Arts Council England (1965 and 1972)

And in this other one too:

All money’s dirty money. Not that I’m saying BP’s money is dirty.
– Alex Beard, Deputy Director of Tate

The value of art – symbolic, social, financial – is the result of a complex chain of transactions, just like any other human production. Sponsorship is one of these transactions: an exchange between a corporation providing financial support and a cause-driven institution – championing something worthy and with a wide appeal, such as the arts, health, education or social justice – providing grateful recognition.

When art is created or presented using public funds, we expect that it should reflect this origin and therefore be accessible to all and contribute to the social good: well-being, social inclusion, education. Investing in the arts comes with the condition that they should be aligned with the principles of a democratic government and contribute to its mission.

What is at the other end of the transaction between corporations and arts institutions? To quote Wikipedia on “Theories of Sponsorship”:

A range of psychological and communications theories have been used to explain how commercial sponsorship works to impact consumer audiences. Most use the notion that a brand (sponsor) and event (sponsoree) become linked in memory through the sponsorship and as a result, thinking of the brand can trigger event-linked associations, while thinking of the event can come to trigger brand-linked associations.

Sponsorship is a two-way endorsement: the arts institution is sharing the symbolic value of its cultural products, the corporate sponsor is imparting its brand image on the audience experience. The view that money get cleansed of its origin – and its symbolic ties – when it contributes to making art happen is a convenient celebration of the “magic power of transubstantiation” of the artist-creator that leaves in the dark the implications of the legitimacy gained by the sponsor through this transaction.

To delve deeper into the ethics of arts sponsorship, arts activists Platform have put together a study guide titled Take the Money and Run?, a selection of 9 key texts available for free consultation in the Live Art Development Agency study room (in East London) (as well as most likely in large libraries). It 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 an edited collection of documents on public arts funding, State ideology and social engineering, an Arts & Business publication titled Using Art to Render Authenticity in Business (available online), or else a conversation between artist Hans Haacke and sociologist Pierre Bourdieu on the impact of sponsorship and censorship on the arts.

Activists are getting increasingly vocal – and creative – to highlight the cooptation of art by corporate interests. Platform is a member of the Art Not Oil coalition, alongside Liberate Tate, Reclaim Shakespeare Company / BP or Not BP?, RisingTide, Shell Out Sounds and the UK Tar Sands Network, who are creating imaginative and high-impact campaigns to highlight to the public the associations of large arts institutions with oil-related companies.

I took a look at some critical enquiries from other countries using diverse methods – citizen journalism, visual essay and crowdfunding, video games – to question the links between art and power. If art provides a good ROI for political and commercial interests – and why would they invest otherwise? – at what cost to the art, the artists and the public does this come?

1. The citizen whistleblower: Louvre pour Tous (France) – 2004-present

Created in 2004 by designer Bernard Hasquenop to react against the change of concessionary regime at the Louvre (first revoking free admissions for teachers, then for artists), Louvre pour tous is “an observatory of public museums dedicated, through articles and in-depth investigations, to monitoring the rise of commercial interests: the ever-increasing weight of philanthropy, for better or worst, sponsorship masquerading as philanthropy, privatisation of the public space, dubious merchandising, high prices, blurring of borders between advertising and exhibition, exaggerated attendance figures, deliberate lies…”

The website – all in French and mostly about French museums and cultural policy – is a goldmine of information unveiling the tangled relations between art and power and probing the gaps between the ideal and practice of cultural democracy . There are too many interesting features to mention them all, so I’ll just choose a few:

www.louvrepourtous.fr
@louvrepourtous

2. The epic fight for freedom of speech: Banned on the Hill (Canada) – 2011-2014

What would you do if you discovered you were blacklisted by your own government for speaking up on climate change and the tar sands?

When Canadian artist Franke James’ European tour of her climate change-related artwork was suddenly cancelled, she started an investigation into her government’s practices, documented through a visual essay turned into an animated video (above). She also crowdfunded a public art campaign to put up posters on outdoor ad sites across Canada and in Washington.

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If the press coverage on James’ story is anything to go by, the government’s attempt at censorship has rather backfired – not only contributing to spreading the message far and wide, but also confirming that even governments and businesses take art very seriously indeed.

Franke James has been awarded a Gold medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2014 for the book version of Banned on the Hill – available here.

www.frankejames.com
@frankejames

3. The satirical business simulation: Oiligarchy (Italy) – 2008

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MolleIndustria create social simulations that lay bare the mechanisms of war, politics and business – in their own words, “homeopathic remedies to the idiocy of mainstream entertainment in the form of free, short-form, online games”.

Oiligarchy is a playable commentary on the oil industry in which the player takes the role of an “oiligarch” managing the extraction business in the homeland and overseas and lobbies the government to keep the carbon-fossil based economy as profitable as possible. A post-mortem available online explains the choices made and references used by the game designers.

Oiligarchy

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www.molleindustria.org
@molleindustria