Chin-tao Wu

Embracing the Enterprise Culture: Art Institutions Since the 1980s

With the Government giving less to art and education, somebody’s got to give more. And that somebody is America’s corporations.1

Such statements were a common feature of the Reagan era, designed to place business before the public consciousness as an enlightened patron of the arts. They are indicative of a wider phenomenon that characterized the decade of the 1980s under successive Reagan and Thatcher governments—the unprecedented intervention of business in contemporary culture. Never before had the corporate world in America and Britain exercised such sway over the range of high culture, in which business involvement had previously been thought of as inappropriate, if not completely alien.

Corporations had, of course, for some time been making contributions to art museums and other cultural organizations. In the 1970s, while continuing in the generally passive role of being solicited for donations, businesses had begun to be active participants in the framing and shaping of the discourse of contemporary culture. What was new in the 1980s was that this active involvement became ubiquitous and comprehensive. This essay sets out to plot a small but important part of this trajectory whose impetus lay in the free-market policies and ethos of the Reagan and Thatcher decade: the great influx of corporate capital into visual art institutions. Looking specifically at the contemporary art world, I will examine the ways in which businesses successfully transformed art museums and galleries into their own public-relations vehicles, by taking over the function, and by exploiting the social status, that cultural institutions have in our society. Given the scope of this essay, it is not possible to discuss the public policy implications of this phenomenon.2 Yet it is worth recalling that the relation between public policy and business sponsorship in Britain is so close that Colin Tweedy, director of the Association of Business Sponsorship for the Arts (ABSA), went as far as to suggest that sponsorship was one of the cornerstones of Thatcherism.3 During the 1980s corporate art collections were being set up with increasing frequency on both sides of the Atlantic. Using their economic power, modern corporations, armed with their own curators and art departments, vigorously emulated the former prerogatives of public art museums and galleries by organizing and touring their own collections at home and abroad, and by incorporating an art gallery or hosting a branch of a public museum within their premises. More importantly, corporations established contemporary art awards, giving them considerable cultural visibility, along with the appearance of being the arbiters of society’s taste. Business influence is thus well advanced in every phase of contemporary art—in its production, dissemination and reception. Compared with the United States, there was a great deal less corporate engagement in art museums in Britain, at least before the Conservatives came to power in 1979. Then the government at both local and national levels was still directly and adequately funding art galleries. It was possible in 1980 to speak of visual arts sponsorship in Britain as a ‘new game’, with its territory yet to be ‘firmly demarcated’.4 Yet throughout the 1980s the Conservative government was highly successful in emulating American-style enterprise culture, transforming the cultural scene in Britain. By the end of the 1980s, whether in Britain or America, art museums had become just another public-relations outpost for corporaQuotation from a special Chase Manhattan advertising supplement, ‘American Business and the Arts’, Forbes, 27 October 1986. For detailed analysis of the changes of public arts policy during the Reagan and Thatcher decade, see Chin-tao Wu, Privatising Culture: Aspects of Corporate Intervention in Contemporary Art and Art Institutions during the Reagan and Thatcher Decade, Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1997. 3 Colin Tweedy, ‘Sponsorship of the Arts—An Outdated Fashion or the Model of the Future?’, Museum Management and Curatorship, 10, June 1991, p. 161. 4 Deanna Petherbridge, ‘Patronage and Sponsorship: the PS at the Bottom of the Art Balance Sheet’, Art Monthly, no. 38, July–August 1980, p. 9.
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tions, and we live with the consequences to this day. Across the Atlantic, Lexus sedans were regularly displayed outside museums and concert halls, such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Lincoln Center in New York, while in Britain both the Royal Academy and Royal Festival Hall converted their courtyards into car showrooms for corporate sponsors. The transformation of art museums in the 1980s from purveyors of a particular élite culture to fun palaces for an increasing number of middle-class arts consumers has thus to be seen within the dual perspective of government policies and business initiatives. The Principles of Art Sponsorship But why are companies or corporate executives attracted to arts sponsorship in the first place? Notwithstanding the considerable endeavours to foster private support for the arts under the Reagan and Thatcher regimes, corporations were doing much more than simply responding to government pressure. It was rather a question of the unashamedly probusiness ambience created by both governments, significantly helping companies in their efforts to push their agendas. At an ideological level, business has always perceived any government regulation as a potential threat to the free market system. Closely following the setting up of the National Endowment for the Arts (nea) by the US federal government in 1965, the business community responded in 1967 by establishing an arts support system of its own, the Business Committee for the Arts (BCA). Like other business associations such as the Business Roundtable in America, the BCA assumed, and has maintained, an undisputed role as the principal spokesman for business view on arts issues. They defend and champion their arts intervention through regular publications of the speeches of top corporate executives. Here is part of one of them by Winton Blount, the chief executive officer (ceo) of Blount Inc. and a former chairman of the BCA, at its annual meeting in 1984: That environment [of freedom] is being persistently eroded everywhere by ill-advised and ill-conceived regulation, taxation, and other forms of government control. So we are engaged in an important work in furthering the arts. We are not merely meeting a civic obligation which we can accept or reject as we wish. We are helping to keep open those avenues of freedom along which art and commerce both travel.5 But freedom of artistic expression, in which an individual asserts his or her right to advance their art at a personal level, is of an entirely different order from the freedom that businesses with vast amounts of private capital have to follow their altogether more earthly pursuits. The significance of this pro-business offensive can only be fully understood against the background of an even larger corporate strategy; that is, to quote Willard C. Butcher (successor to David Rockefeller as president and chief executive of Chase Manhattan Bank) to take a ‘visible role

Winton M. Blount, Business Support to the Arts is Just Good Sense, New York 1984; cited in Michael Useem, Inner Circle: Large Corporations and the Rise of Business Political Activity in the US and the UK, New York 1984, p. 87.


At variance with orthodox management theory. While culturally ‘playing safe’ is generally thought to be the strategy of corporate sponsorship. We need nothing less than a major and sustained effort in the marketplace of ideas.. business seeks to present its intervention in the arts as a great and legitimate cause. it is essential to bear in mind that corporate arts sponsorship is not an isolated phenomenon. emphasized that We at Philip Morris feel it is appropriate that we participate in bringing these works to the attention of the public. contemporary art certainly offers more treacherous ground than that of the old masters which are unlikely to generate controversy. It is an initiative generally taken not by middle managers. does any company choose to tread upon it? The mythological cult of artistic personality and the strong association between avant-garde art and innovation within the paradigms of modernism have provided the business world with a valuable tool for the projection of an image of itself as a liberal and progressive force. not directly to sell products. for there is a key element in this ‘new art’ which has its counterpart in the business world. New York 1979.. By sponsoring art institutions. Art in Business: The Philip Morris Story. 37. requires more than an imaginative manoeuvre. regardless of the small sums involved in relation to a company’s annual budget. When introducing its sponsored exhibition When Attitudes Become Form. p.. to the people . the senior partners. as Butcher had urged his fellow executives. but to propagate company views on contemporary political and social issues. then. Why. p. or in the case of partnerships. Inner Circle. That element is innovation—without which it would be impossible for progress to be made in any segment in society. to ‘take our message directly into American homes. top managers take a disproportionate interest in arts sponsorship.7 By appropriating the concept of innovation. it was not only business executives who made concerted efforts to speak out through media appearances. then the executive vice-president of Philip Morris Inc. and by mediating and redefining its meaning in corporate terms. Managing Sponsorship To venture into arts sponsorship. Going Public for the Private Enterprise System. New York communicating the private enterprise perspective on a variety of critical public issues’. Kutner in 1984 of corporate contributions among companies in Massachusetts reported that the CEO of three-fifths of the firms still reviewed recommendations for 6 Willard C. A systematic analysis by Michael Useem and Stephen I. cloaking their particular interests with a universal moral veneer. 31 . according to which senior management’s involvement should increase or decrease in proportion to the relative scale of expenditure. 89. cited in Useem. corporations present themselves as sharing a humanist value system with museums and galleries. John Murphy. During the 1980s. 7 Sam Hunter. Although this broader issue cannot be dealt with here. a survey of conceptual art.’6 Companies also spent millions of dollars on issue advertising. Butcher. however. but by the chairman or chief executive.

class in both countries. occupying the uppermost echelon of corporations. 1982. 11 See Thorstein Veblen. Culture and Society. the single most pivotal figure is the chairman or CEO. and indeed corporate arts intervention in general. and still is. top corporate management was. see Chin-tao Wu. the exercise of high culture has become an increasingly important Michael Useem and Stephen I. Indeed. and thereby socially and educationally prominent. Kutner.specific contributions if they exceeded a minimum amount. For detailed analysis of the survey and its methodology. ‘Cultural Entrepreneurship in Nineteenth-Century Boston’. These men (for they are mostly men). friendship and intermarriage. Such people. they are participants in an intricate and complicated web of economic and social networks of acquaintance.10 Distinction The engagement of this corporate élite in the arts can thus be interpreted both on the individual and corporate levels. followed by other senior managers. However. no.9 When it comes to initiating any programme. they also manage to serve on a bewildering list of charitable and nonprofit-making cultural institutions. p. are the ‘cultural managerial capitalists’. as Thorstein Veblen argued in the last century. 4. By virtue of their social background and corporate positions. in Paul J. dominated by an economically privileged. 35. with that amount for half of these firms being a mere $500. Nonprofit Enterprise in the Arts. NewYork 1986. New York 1994. in particular the chairman and the CEO. the names of the companies and individuals cannot be identified unless they are already published elsewhere. Nearly three-quarters of US companies and well over half of British ones reported such senior involvement in their arts programmes.8 The important role that senior managers. To be seen as a patron of the arts is part and parcel of a distinct style of life required and sanctioned within this ‘sophisticated’ stratum of society. ed. Media. 9 8 32 . are in positions of great power and influence. This suggests that senior corporate executives play a very significant role in arts sponsorship. at a time when many of the traditional forms of distinction that found expression in bourgeois mores have fallen away. and for whom involvement in the arts is a locus of social distinction to which their élite status and class aspirations are anchored. does not of itself constitute a sufficient credential for membership of the dominant section of the class. The Theory of the Leisure Class. inherited wealth or a high-status occupation.11 It also depends upon the adoption and display of a particular set of values and life styles. 10 Paul DiMaggio. to paraphrase the American sociologist Paul DiMaggio’s description of cultural capitalists. Despite all the media attention given to self-made entrepreneurs during the Thatcher and Reagan years. pp. an élite within an élite. All unattributed quotations are drawn from the interviews which I conducted between 1992 and 1996 in London and New York. the sort who climb to the top of the corporate ladder through a managerial career. Privatising Culture. DiMaggio. 99–100.. Fot reason of confidentiality. Despite the pressing demands of their jobs (and frequently of other directorships). ‘Corporate Contributions to Culture and the Arts’. play in corporate arts sponsorship is confirmed by the results of my own survey into the subject.

tax incentives are essentially the same for charitable contributions and business sponsorship. vol. both the Thatcher government and the ABSA advocated a specific definition of sponsorship: ‘a commercial undertaking. Arts Research Seminar 4. The true nature of this marketing exercise can best be seen in the tax concessions granted in both countries. though in the perception of the general public the two terms are interchangeable. It is no surprise that the names of executives often crop up in arts sponsorship in media reporting. The difference lies partly in the fact that the sums involved are minuscule in relation to any company’s budget. for our present purposes. one could argue that these business élites are transforming the economic capital of the corporations that they oversee into cultural capital for their own personal purposes. Theory & Society. to point out.13 By participating in arts sponsorship. products or services. pp. It is sufficient.. a payment by a business to an arts organization for the purpose of promoting the business name. activity. the importance of arts sponsorship as a public relations tool does not. 63. and that this in turn can be put to use for the accumulation of economic capital. 33 12 . but it is also because in America sponsorship is in any case already tax deductible. 1978. It used to be an open secret but now it is discussed explicitly on both sides of the Atlantic. 13 Pierre Bourdieu. It is above all at exclusive events in arts venues that the business and political élite meet and recognize one another.15 In Brirain. ed. To encourage arts sponsorship and side-step what is seen as the cumbersome process of qualifying for tax deductions by making covenanted payments. September 1985.14 If the essence of the top executives’ involvement in arts sponsorship requires further refinement. p. Thomas Hoving was the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 1966 to 1977. ‘Social Class and Arts Consumption’. these élites are using their corporate positions to advance their personal interest and social status. See ‘The Non-Fungibility of Arts Funding’. This is a commercial Quoted in Louisa Buck and Philip Dodd. London 1984. Relative Values or What’s Art Worth?. While tax advantages are rarely mentioned by American arts sponsors. sponsorship and patronage are differentiated for tax purposes. 46. that cultural capital can in turn be transformed into the social capital of acquaintances and connections. 5. Distinction. while simultaneously acting in the corporate interest. 141–61. p. Richard Nice. The Arts: Corporations and Foundations. i. following DiMaggio’s elaboration of Bourdieu’s concept. they have long been a prime item on the ABSA’s campaign agenda for tax reform in Britain. whether the sponsorship dollars come from the marketing/ public relations department (as the majority of them do) or from the socalled corporate philanthropic budget. 14 Paul DiMaggio and Michael Useem. in Harry Hillman-Chartrand. Slightly modifying Bourdieu’s theory. Canada Council. 1. no. London 1991. 15 According to Mark Schuster. To put it bluntly. however. there is more than a grain of truth in Thomas Hoving’s cynical comment: ‘Art is sexy! Art is money-sexy! Art is money-sexy-social-climbing-fantastic!’12 It is appropriate at this juncture to recall Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of ‘cultural capital’.

however. See also Giving to Charity: How Business Can Get Tax Relief. essential to arts sponsorship. patronage via the tax route of deeds of covenant is deemed a ‘philanthropic gift’ or ‘pure’ donation. with arts organizations acting as PR agencies for corporate sponsors. expenditure’. therefore. It is therefore no coincidence that oil companies such as Exxon and Mobil provide the largest amount of money for arts and culture in America. 30. considered the tax incentives of any importance at all.’16 By contrast. p. 17. not just a matter of shift in corporate priority.5 per cent (75.7 per cent of British companies (78. London 1991. The highest percentage by far was recorded when it came to measuring their perception of the success of their sponsorship as a PR exercise.1 per cent (52. Accordingly. but arts sponsorship is particularly effective for those companies. Annual Survey of Corporate Contribution.18 Likewise. p. understandably companies tend to emphasize the degree to which their sponsorship is successful. more corporate money would be forthcoming.6 per cent of American companies. ‘The Non-Fungibility of Arts Funding’. Unsurprisingly. p.3 per cent. printing and publishing corporations provide the highest proportion of their charitable contributions. 6. in 16 Sponsorship is a legitimate business expense and thus tax deductible in calculating the trading profits of the business.17 Burnishing the Corporate Image The concept of the publicity campaign is.0 per cent for American companies) thought that it successfully advanced employee benefits.0 per cent for American companies) were satisfied that it constituted a successful and effective public relations exercise. of course. are not necessarily accurate. however arbitrary the distinction between the two categories. presumably by locating sponsorship within the gamut of public relations campaigns. financial institutions provide 19. Both British and American companies gave paramount importance to this aspect of sponsorship.2 per cent for American) saw it as a public relations exercise. and 90. It meant. petroleum companies are the largest contributors. 90. openly defined sponsorship as a form of commercial promotion.2 per cent of American companies) considered it a means of improving corporate image.5 per cent for American companies) who maintained that they undertook sponsorship for employee benefits. tobacco and weapons industries. 92. see Business Support of the Arts: A Tax Guide. in effect. Ironically. to culture and the arts. that the Thatcher government. while only 52.5 per cent of British companies (90. the primacy of public relations elements in sponsorship was confirmed by my own survey. of course. if the expenditure is ‘wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the trade. See Kathryn Troy. whose image is in need of some polishing. In terms of the total amount of money given. 18 According to the Conference Board.6 per cent (78. along with organizations with substantial vested interest in sponsorship such as the ABSA. Nevertheless the percentages are a useful indication of what they perceive their rationale for sponsorship to be.7 per cent of British respondents to my survey. compared with only 35. cited in Schuster. 17 Their answers. 34 . The need for publicity varies according to the products or service that the companies are marketing. New York 1983. and is revenue.4 per cent. and petroleum and gas companies 18.2 per cent of British companies (88 per cent for American companies) reported improved corporate image. between the parties concerned. compared to 39. the bias in the tax structure is geared toward the self-interest of sponsors. rather than a philanthropic gift. p. When asked their reasons for launching arts sponsorship. London 1993. This is. such as petroleum. and 97. 20.4 per cent. as opposed to capital. only 9.

Sports sponsorship gets the tobacco companies’ brands considerable television exposure in a medium in which they are not permitted to advertise. albeit ineffective. May 1979. Carter Brown.000 a year. are the world’s largest tobacco conglomerate. and have to do with the fact that tobacco advertising is severely restricted by law. is one of the biggest arts sponsors in the country. for example. the BP logo appears all year round on the Tate’s large banners advertising the New Displays and on the front cover of the Gallery’s publications.’21 J. Philip Morris published a 130-page catalogue listing each and every contribution it has made since 1958. Since the 1960s. It gave an estimated $15 million to arts organizations throughout the country in 1990. it has given us a better image in the financial and general community than had we not done this. To quote George Weissman. the Philip Morris Companies. New York 1993. also praises the company for providing a ‘bedrock Cultural Affairs Department. Philip Morris Companies. tobacco companies are not buying television coverage. Although it is not possible to discuss tobacco sports sponsorship in detail here. especially in the visual arts. however. To celebrate its thirty-five years of arts sponsorship. While there is some. the company has also become one of the leading specialists in capitalizing on arts sponsorship. the regular rehanging of the Tate Gallery collection. has been sponsored by BP. For arts sponsorship.’20 This carefully crafted image of a unique corporate personality has won the company eulogistic comments from the media. It covered almost every artistic discipline. Quoted in Robert Metz. 21 Hunter. This publicity machine is run even more cost-effectively by the tobacco industries. The well-known art critic Barbara Rose paid Philip Morris this compliment: ‘One can only be grateful to a corporation farsighted enough to deflect PR budgets into public service rather than pouring it down the Madison Avenue drain. For around £150. which it would prefer to protect from the public gaze. director emeritus of the National Gallery of Art. of which only a fifth is on display at any one time. In America. 20 19 35 . Since 1990. the company is proud of its arts support and from time to time produces glossy publications to champion its high-minded achievement. 45. Art in Business. Philip Morris and the Arts: 35 Year Report. p.19 Despite all the grand talk of commitment to the arts. including household brands such as Marlboro. hosted at virtually every established arts institution throughout the United States and across the globe. Holding 42 per cent of the US cigarette market in 1990. ‘The Corporation as Art Patron: A Growth Stock’. 84.Britain. status and access to people of influence. British Petroleum (BP). Benson & Hedges and Virgin Slims. p. but a different kind of publicity associated with public prestige. its then vice-chairman: ‘We are in an unpopular industry. it is essential to understand that sports and arts sponsorship are interrelated. Philip Morris’s revenue in 1989 was $45 billion. its real motive is abundantly clear. there are no restrictions whatsoever for arts sponsorship. In contrast to its political contributions. form of regulation for sports sponsorship. on a par with British Telecom. a sum which can buy only two-and-a-half minutes’ commercial advertising on prime-time television in 1990. [While] our support of the arts is not directed toward that [problem]. Artnews. fully privatized in 1987.

24 See Conference Board. p. the comparable figures for music. By incorporating the cigarette brand name into the award. ‘The Ethics of Sponsorship’.25 The Art-Going Public If art museums find it easier to get corporate support than museums of other types. ‘Corporate Support for Culture and the Arts’. Although it is now defunct.399. Cited in Rick Rogers. 8. despite all the claims made for the democratization of both the production and appreciation of the arts since the Second 22 23 Philip Morris and the Arts. 1988 edition. London 1994. 10.24 In Britain. We don’t talk about “giving” money on sponsorship—the recipient gets the money.000 people visited the Science Museum in London in 1987. it has to be pointed out that the magnitude of tobacco sponsorship in Britain was such that in the early 1980s three of London’s main orchestras were supported by tobacco largesse. funded by Carreras Rothman. Advance Report. 17. While the attendance figures of museums of other types.0 per cent given to music. Even so. with the London Philharmonic being dubbed ‘the du Maurier Band’. The most prominent tobacco industry player in visual arts sponsorship in the 1980s was Imperial Tobacco. cited in Michael Useem.9 per cent. 36 . 25 See Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts. p. its then external affairs executive. Annual Report of Corporate Contribution. emphasized. eds. Statistically speaking. the reasons are not hard to find. in a Sunday Times interview. we get the publicity. in Britain the tobacco companies remain one of the pioneers in this area.of support to cultural organizations around the world’ and for their ‘unwavering support’ and ‘enlightened and far-reaching vision’. far ahead of the 12. are by and large higher than those of art museums. compared with 1.733. that ‘We want the arts people we pick to work hard to give us publicity. Business Support for the Arts 1993/94. Wyszomirski and Pat Clubb. In 1980 Imperial launched its annual Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery under its brand name. 54. p. Arts Express. and 11. New York 1988.. June 1986. 4. John Player. nearly 20 per cent of corporate arts support in America goes to museums of all kinds every year. significantly at a time when the company’s sales of cigarettes had dropped to 120 billion from a peak of over 137 billion in 1973. British businessmen have preferred classical music and opera.000 visitors for the Victoria and Albert Museum. began to fund New Generation shows at the Whitechapel Gallery in the 1960s. in Margaret J. New York 1989. it is worth mentioning that the Peter Stuyvesant Foundation. While museums in America have always been the favoured beneficiary of corporate money. opera and museums are 18. Of its arts sponsorship.22 The concentrated strength of Philip Morris in arts sponsorship finds no equivalent in Britain. ‘23 Although it lies beyond the scope this article. According to the Conference Board.76 per cent.96 per cent respectively. be it in America or Britain. The figures for museums are not a precise guide for sponsorship given to contemporary art since they include museums of different kinds. Peter Sanguinetti. For example. art museum visitors rank higher in socio-economic terms than those visiting other museums. the John Player Portrait Award put the name before the art-going public’s eye for a decade. The Cost of Culture. where the greater part of corporate money has gone to supporting music.

corporate rhetoric such as this serves to mask the capital interests of sponsors. in the US 48 per cent of art museum visitors had at least undergraduate education. Second. Michael Useem and Paula Brown. Beck’s. Companies often advertise their benevolent attitude in such terms—to take one example: ‘Manufacturers Hanover is pleased to carry on the tradition of private sponsorship of the arts for the benefit of the public. 37 . with the brewers producing a ‘limited edition’ of 2. whereas only 13. for companies whose products lack a direct link to exploit the sponsored event. but the bottle itself became a collector’s item. Rachel Whiteread. association with the arts is more geared toward advertising their so-called ‘enlightened’ corporate image. First. and to create a false image of what is referred to as ‘corporate philanthropy’. It made its début conventionally enough sponsoring the exhibition ‘German Art in the Twentieth Century’ at the Royal Academy in 1985. Washington.4 per cent of visitors to other museums. for companies whose products or service can make a ‘right’ connection with the sponsored show or the institution. so to speak. In the first instance. George Wyllie. it is people within the ABC1 groups that are directly targeted. at a time when its British distributor. DC 1977. compared with 34. see Paul DiMaggio. This is despite the fact that companies often claim that ‘the general public’ are their target audience. Bruce Mclean and the 1993 Turner Prize winner. art museum audiences are far more educated. For instance. and are more affluent than visitors to other museums. Compared with 20. Audience Studies of the Performing Arts and Museums: A Critical Review. were about to launch a nationwide marketing offensive. Over the last ten years the imported German beer. aimed at the underthirty. special edition bottles have included labels by Tim Head.9 per cent of the population had such educational qualifications in 1975. Beck’s programme soon made a splash when it sponsored the retrospective of the newly garlanded Turner Prize winners Gilbert and George at the Hayward Gallery in 1987. as if this public were a homogeneous group. however well disguised it may be.’ Consistently negating the underlying socio-economic inequalities in arts participation. There are two main motives behind corporate sponsorship.000 barrels in 1984. the sponsored event is a sales promotion. the ‘vin ordinaire’ of the official British avant-garde. The success of this ‘innovative art sponsorship’ is obvious: not only did it capture media attention. even though museum audiences in general are already disproportionately privileged in socio-economic terms compared to the population as a whole. style-conscious generation in an already over-crowded lager market.26 So it is the demographic features of these consumers that largely explain why art museums are particularly appealing to corporate America and Britain. has been.000 bottles carrying a label designed by the artists.World War. A similar disproportion can be seen in occupation and income levels. with one of them actually being admitted to the Tate Gallery’s collection. S&N were importing 26 For a detailed discussion. To date. have more prestigious jobs. Scottish and Newcastle Breweries (S&N). Richard Long.

with its attraction of tax relief and with the British Government’s handout of public money to endorse it. . no. not necessarily just the ones in Government but the ones in Opposition as well. they won’t dismiss something out of hand. so you can meet them socially. July-August 1994.I stress ‘a long-term relationship’ because we certainly do not use sponsorship or any other external affairs activity to try and specifically influence such people because we’ve got some issue at the time. After all.350. as James Odling-Smee pointed out. or even S&N’s competitors such as Guinness. This is political lobbying.8 million in 1994) or BP (£1. ‘Refreshing the Arts’. This spectacular sales growth is underscored by an equally impressive sponsorship budget of more than £350.000 barrels ten years later. pp. 38 . of course. ‘bear in mind that Beck’s is just one beer.000 in 1994. the spokesperson specified. where it is corporate image rather than indirect sales which are the concern. the Company Secretary of one manufacturing multinational in London candidly revealed their real motive: It’s not just the City. no matter how informal and sophisticated. and it’s probably no more than a thousand people. As far as geographical location is concerned. compared with £ analysts. 20–3. the public affairs manager for an unnamed brewery pointed out that they already knew their target audience so well that they sponsored not only art exhibitions.. Yes. arts sponsorship.’ The significance of this corporate ‘schmoozing’ cannot be over-estimated in a political climate where it was clear—at least under the previous administration—that influence could simply be bought. it just means [that] if some issue does come up..’ The same company is even more specific when it comes to defining its actual criteria. but also concerts and theatres to appeal to the specific interests of influential individuals. It would be the MPs. relevant journalists. is more than mere advertising for an ‘enlightened’ corporate image. 27 James Odling-Smee. but you want a long-term relationship with Government.. senior civil servants and opinion-formers figure among the most frequently mentioned target audience in my interviews.000 in 1985. Again these are all people relevant to our business.25 million in 1991). ‘We would tend to sponsor things within a one-mile radius of the Houses of Parliament because we want to reach MPs. in the case of American museums. just one brand’. But the potential of its relationship with the arts is abundantly clear. . Art Monthly.27 In the second case. Similarly. . This is. so they get to know you a bit more than just a name or a face in a formal situation.. nowhere near the big league of arts sponsors such as British Telecom (£1.and civil servants. politicians.If you can invite to events the senior politicians.. which it would be helpful if we changed their views about. Ultimately. By virtue of their being within the public sector or.. 178. the significance of this corporate intervention has to be understood in political terms. In attempting to dismiss charges of political lobbying. To quote from one of the top brewers in Britain: ‘Our target audience is very easy and very simple. because you know. . in the domain of public prestige and authority. in so many years’ time they might change.

In addition. ‘We are non-political. that art. DC stated. 81. and widely distributed thereafter.’29 The popularity of blockbuster exhibitions. it has been standard practice since the late 1980s for the benevolence of the sponsor to be permanently documented in the chairman’s statement in exhibition catalogues. As one of the visual arts sponsors pointed out. Carter Brown. Ph. with their attendant champagne and canapés. ‘it got into the corporate mentality that there’s no point in spending money on a show unless you can guarantee that it’s going to be another Tut. p. The extent to which this also had its origins in a conscious policy on the part of the institution is a 28 Victoria Dean Alexander. ‘How Will Museums Survive in Tomorrow’s World?’ Artnews. provide an unrivalled context for sponsors to entertain their clients and to communicate with them. where in both my surveys and in the interviews I have conducted. 39 .D. Nowhere is the transformed role that art museums came to play in the 1980s more clearly visible than in the immense popularity of ‘blockbuster’ exhibitions. 29 Libet museums have such a privileged position that association with them is a conspicuous signal of social prestige and power.’ Precisely because the ambience of art museums ostensibly absolves them from participating ideologically in the political process. by its very nature.28 These exhibitions. affluent museum visitors constitute a niche market of substantial purchasing power for business to capture. As J. we must now turn to examine art museums. director emeritus of the National Gallery of Art in Washington. resides above the sordid world of politics and commerce. thesis. As we have already seen. This is further reinforced by the claim. corporate hospitality has been reported to be very important. widely made in the name of ‘art for art’s sake’ in bourgeois culture. however. The Institutions of Art To gauge the influence that corporate capital has on the practice of contemporary art. but rather that their institutional structure provides the most visible site for any attempt at corporate influence. From Philanthropy to Funding: The Effects of Corporate and Public Support on Art Museums. Summer 1982. This is especially so in Britain. According to Victoria Alexander. This is not to say that contemporary art exists only inside art museums and galleries. Stanford University 1990. they paradoxically provide the most discreet of venues where top politicians or government officials are invited to rub shoulders with equally prominent business leaders. or otherwise. the performing arts. designed to attract the largest number of people possible to the museum. the most significant effect of the shift in funding from public to corporate is the new emphasis being placed on ‘blockbuster shows’. signified a more profound change in museum operations brought about by corporate capital in the 1980s. have become a yardstick by which to judge its success. p. in the words of a senior officer in one prominent museum in New York. namely its over-expansion. exhibition openings. sponsoring art exhibitions with carefully vetted invitation lists is more practical than sponsoring. who studied the impact of public and corporate funding on art museums in America. say. 91.

on a scale that can only be described as ‘imperial’. 1972–1984. including being the marketing director of the exclusive department store Bloomingdale’s. Hoving’s regime at the Met successfully transformed the traditional operation of the art museum from a warehouse of art artefacts into that of an entrepreneurial undertaking. The Met was marketed as a magnificent mansion providing a never-ending succession of blockbuster shows. until Marcia Tucker was dismissed in 1976. London 1986. and on commercial marketing and promotion skills to generate income and draw under their roofs the ever-increasing crowds which are presumed to befit grand art institutions. with the result that the Museum was dubbed ‘the McDonald’s of the museum world’. none of her exhibitions actually had outside funding. 31 Antony Thorncroft. Armstrong claimed that the Whitney could no longer afford to mount major exhibitions without corporate or government funding. 320–4.333 in 1983-84. was responsible for opening four Whitney branches at the headquarters of multinationals in the 1980s. In this respect. pp. The seventeen-year directorship of Armstrong at the Whitney witnessed a succession of blockbuster exhibitions.30 Arguably the most influential museum in the United States. 11 June 1988. Serota at the Tate In Thatcherite Britain there emerged a new breed of museum director. what Antony Thorncroft referred to as ‘scholarly business managers’. blockbuster exhibitions and expensive acquisitions. ‘The Hoving Era at the Met’. attendance figures at the museum more than doubled from 231. As the conservative critic Hilton Kramer put it.654 in 1974–75 to 532. in Kramer. the Met left a far-reaching and lasting imprint on art museums elsewhere.31 30 Hilton Kramer. It was Armstrong who. The cult of limitless expansion with escalating costs forced the Whitney. Museum expansion policy is thus closely bound up with the ambition of the director. The Revenge of the Philistines: Art and Cu/ture. With a ‘big business background’ as well as a training in medieval art. But the most important link between the world of art and that of commerce is the museum’s director. with her ‘extensive background in marketing and publicity for the fashion and cosmetics industries’. and American art museums in general.complicated question that lies beyond the scope of this study. The Financial Times. with breathtaking audacity. Hoving made ‘the Museum bigger in almost every respect’. The 1980s equivalent of Hoving’s showmanship would be Tom Armstrong of the Whitney Museum of American Art. This brand of maverick commercialism became even more overt with the appointment of Margery Rubin Cohen as the museum’s public relations officer in 1988. Hoving deliberately ventured into costly undertakings—new wings. Within one decade. despite the fact that. 40 . to rely more and more on corporate money. thus forcing the museum into a desperate search for new sources of income. When he became the museum director in 1974. of which the earliest was the Jasper Johns show in 1977. the directorship of Thomas Hoving at the Metropolitan Museum from 1966 to 1977 gave a foretaste of the ethos that would come to dominate the art world of the 1980s. ‘Museums and Art Galleries: Journey into a Real World’.

vol. he was known as an adventurous exhibition-organizer. But equally impressive was his skill in establishing a portfolio of corporate sponsors for the Whitechapel. Bowness openly declared that ‘to think the American system is the panacea’ is ‘sheer nonsense’. which Lord Gowrie once described as ‘a bit of a maiden aunt’. but by the time he left the Whitechapel. p. I don’t think it’s possible—I don’t think it’s desirable. One works very hard for peanuts. Belated as it was in terms of the broader change described here. 26 November 1988. ‘My colleagues in the United States often envied me—even in these straitened times’. Serota’s Tate in the 1990s is particularly revealing in this context because it elucidates how far corporate capital.34 In particular. While Bowness’s Tate.’33 Prior to becoming director of the Tate. because I can spend far less time on the actual show. ‘Nicholas Serota: Getting the Hang of it’. ‘Patronage and Sponsorship’. 34 Quoted in Petherbridge. ‘Can US Fund-Raising Help British Arts?’. for the arts to be left to the private sector. the change at the Tate Gallery. was not seen as ‘a hit’. have affected British art galleries. his track record of fund-raising and political manoeuvring was brilliantly demonstrated in his negotiating the Whitechapel’s £2. 8.2 million renovation in 1985. 35 Ernest Beck. and education. was clearly a sign of the times. Although he played his part in courting sponsors. Artnews. Lunch with Cézanne The new vision of the Tate produced a series of blockbuster shows. They are. 118. he had already acquired substantial sums from over eighty companies. especially important for our purposes. like their American counterparts. Young and enthusiastic.They included Neil Cossons at the Science Museum with a background of running a commercial museum (Ironbridge). on artists. ‘The Shock of Serota’. Interviewed just after he arrived at the Tate.’. Serota indicated his fear that the primary museum activities of scholarship. no. October 1988. March 1989. Elizabeth Esteve-Coll at the Victoria and Albert Museum. This is not to say that they are necessarily Thatcherite in a political sense. if somewhat less ruthless. Picasso: 32 Quoted in Penelope Cagney. entrepreneurial. The Guardian. 17. vol. 19. each bigger than the last: John Constable in 1991 (169. ‘I believe in state funding. on the other hand. and. 33 41 . 77. p. Serota was quoted as complaining in 1980 that ‘the amount of my time spent on fund-raising certainly affects the quality of our exhibitions.’32 This is hardly an attitude that Number Ten would have been prepared to countenance forever.. Serota was director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery from 1976 to 1988. but they are nonetheless ready to market aggressively the institution in their care. Nick Serota at the Tate Gallery. along with its particular brand of commercialism. p. says Bowness. 88. are regarded as essential since they generate high income.412 visitors). might be ‘squeezed out’ in circumstances of cash crisis. conservation. as well as ‘academic shows’. Serota’s task at the Tate was to make it ‘the biggest art fun-palace in Europe.35 Occasional blockbusters. with Serota replacing Sir Alan Bowness in 1988. Waldemar Januszczak. on ideas. Fund Raising Management.. who was seen as a particularly efficient if philistine administrator.

outnumbering those at the far larger Metropolitan Museum. ‘Tate Plays for High Stakes—But Has it Got the Winning Card with Bankside?’. For our purposes. soon after Serota took over the directorship. and closer perhaps to the number labouring at similar activities in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. To date. the Tate launched a mammoth fund-raising campaign with a target of £56 million to match the £50 million already awarded by the Millennium Commission. 15. for around £10 million. 8.659 visitors) and the 1996 Cézanne extravaganza (408. While American museums generally have a broad-church approach to their corporate membership (and much lower subscription fees). 37 36 42 . To realize the plan.37 In this ambitious enterprise. The Financial Times. the Programme offers its corporate members conventional benefits such as private views or tours for employees and the hire of the gallery space for corporate entertainment. with its shop stocking everything from vases.60). by limiting its memberships to under fifty people. The reason why the Gallery is able to Ibid.250 bookings a day (admission cost £8. p. such as the Charitable Giving Programme. above all. The Financial Times. ‘development’ being the vague but impressive sounding term for such transatlantic notions as fund-raising and networking. one was established with six staff in 1990. p. benefactors of the new Tate can buy ‘immortality’ by having galleries named after them. the Events Section and the Friends of the Tate Gallery. ‘I don’t want the Tate to be a shopping mall. Back in 1989. with its ticket agency taking some 5. the Tate plays the exclusivity card by charging a subscription of £10. While there was no Development Office at the Tate in the 1980s. Antony Thorncroft. estimated to cost £106 million. and. Serota was backed by an impressive team of professional fund-raisers. not forgetting the ‘Cézannewich’ offered at the London branches of Prêt à Manger and a specially bottled ‘Cuvée Cézanne at the Tate’ wine. the Corporate Sponsorship Programme. Not only was a ticket to the Cézanne exhibition the ‘hottest’ in town. they should be able to. but the Tate also mounted an extensive merchandising campaign. scheduled to open in the year 2000 at the disused Bankside Power Station on the Thames. The Office is so well organized as to be able to cover virtually every conceivable aspect of private-sector funding. But if people want to buy something. concomitant with the launching of a Corporate Membership Programme. By 1991 a specific post for Corporate Sponsorship Manager was in place.000 per year for Associate Members and £25.688 visitors).Sculptor/Painter in 1994 (313. the Development Office has some twentysix staff members. the Corporate Membership Programme offers a glimpse of the business culture mentality. tea towels and CD ROMs to £45 Cézanne scarves. it was Serota who was quoted as saying. 28 January 1995.000 for Partner status. According to Antony Thorncroft. 31 October 1995. with the planned new Tate in process. Imitating similar American schemes before it.’36 Nowhere is the ‘expansionist’ ambition of the Gallery more clearly shown than in the grand scheme for the Tate Gallery of Modern Art. and ‘Millennium Funds the Bankside Tate’.

‘We would never rent out the museum’. p.000 from the accountancy firm Ernst & Young. 5 May 1995. the vice president of Philip Morris. p. Likewise. As an anonymous Tate source put it. 40 Leonard Sloane. with some benefits being exclusively earmarked for the Chairman and the Chief Executive and a guest of their choice. in 1980. Seminar on Business Support of the Arts.40 The operative word in all this is ‘exclusive’. we will have the leaders of Congress to a black-tie opening. The Financial Times. Artnews. 59. along with other sponsorship promotions. in exchange for £500. AMCON Group. the former director of Solomon R. which. the Tate hosted more than forty evening receptions for the purposes of entertaining its clients and potential clients. admitted. itself effectively is because it is placed at the top of the pecking order of contemporary public art galleries in Britain which. ‘Is Big Business a Bonanza for the Arts?’. most of the exclusive access and services are reserved for a very small number of people. to name but a few. The ‘PR-ization of art museums’ by corporate capital is clearly articulated in the language they now speak. we go to the White House. This is why Antony Thorncroft remarked. that one of the benefits of sponsoring exhibitions was that ‘If we have an opening in Washington.’38 Renting Out the Museum The meaning of this exclusive membership restriction—and the Tate is probably the only gallery in the Western world to have it—may not be immediately clear. 79. Messer.’39 It is ironic to recall the words of Thomas M. but rather to place itself into a specific niche market. and for whom? Although ‘employee benefits’ is one of the categories listed among the benefits of membership.. ‘Contemporary Backers Feel Safe at the Tate Sponsorship’. New York. the Annual Partners Dinner. its intention is not to price the Gallery out of market.000. reportedly cost the firm another £500. The Metropolitan Museum in its brochure to lure corporate sponsorship tells it all: ‘Many public relations opportunities are available through the sponsorship of programs. ‘there are only so many entertaining opportunities available in the year!’ More specifically. p. But exclusive from whom. Guggenheim Museum in New York. for the Cézanne blockbuster. the membership allows corporate members ‘to “belong” to an exclusive “club” which primarily gives them the exclusive opportuniry to entertain in the Gallery. 115. Inc. Restricted corporate membership is thus intended to make the Tate another powerful high-society club. in a conference on business and the arts. for example. not least because it is ultimately in contradiction with its professed claim to raise as much money as it can. as we have seen. ‘Companies feel safe at the Tate. such as attending the annual Tate Gallery Foundation Reception. enjoy an artistic aura of authority and acceptability in the public consciousness. Frank Saunders. October 1980. As the Tate spokesperson put it. special 38 Antony Thorncroft. and the most sought-after event of the contemporary art calendar.’ Restricted access is thus designed to ensure that the Gallery can ‘deliver real and exclusive benefits’. 15. Certainly. 39 43 . the Turner Prize Dinner. 3 June 1981.

42 The appeal of being ‘close to Westminster’ is obvious enough. the mercenary transformation of the Tate. at a conference on its purchase policy. ‘New Directions for a National Direction’.’41 The Tate markets itself in a similar indirect and low-key fashion: The Tate Gallery’s central location. brochure. the Tate even boasts that it has ‘a reputation for developing imaginative fund-raising initiatives’. The struggle over the acknowledgement of sponsorship in the media. 201. and art museums in general. and not simply an agent for big business bent on advancing its capital interests? Repeat After Me . To the extent that identity is based in the structure of language. 5. In a recent publication.. Flooding the grand halls of art museums with PR budgets does not bring about any chemical change in the nature of public relations.. 69–70. belonging to the whole nation. 44 Jeremy Lewison. London 1996. New York 1986. governmental or consumer relations may be a fundamental concem. How. the BBC and the so-called ‘quality papers’ in particular. p. deputy keeper of Modern Collection at the Tate. cannot be more spectacularly expressed.. Sonia Coode-Adams and Anthony d’Offay Gallery in London are also donors to the Tate Gallery. p. which have long seen themselves as the custodians of ‘good taste’ in British culture. ironically captured in the title ‘New Directions for a National Collection’.. makes it especially attractive to businesses located in London. have resisted naming 41 Quoted in Hans Haacke. the Tate Gallery does not hire its buildings to other commercial organizations. These facilities are available exclusively to corporate members and current sponsors. However. ed. is the Tate to prove that it is still a public gallery. not only referred to art dealers as ‘allies’ (‘We collaborate with the dealers’). to have their names credited in the press is of paramount importance. 43 Tate Gallery.. p. for example. Managers of Consciousness’. with those on the sponsors’ side coming perilously close to blackmail. ‘Museums. the media. Cézanne. Museum Management and Curatorship. of course.’43 The mercenary mentality. For instance. particularly where international. 597. pp. Jeremy Lewison. in Brian Wallis. Hans Haacke: Unfinished Business. shareholders and other business guests. 10 June 1991. but also remarked: ‘You can look for packages—buy two works and receive one as a gift. 42 Tate Gallery Corporate Membership Programme. or seeking a central London venue in which to entertain . and that it works ‘closely with sponsors to ensure that their business interests are well served. amply proves the point. 44 . These can often provide a creative and cost effective answer to a specific marketing objective. Commercial art consultants and dealers such as Mary Boone in New York. it moves by osmosis into other aspects of the museum operations.’44 It is difficult not to see this as a variation of well-tried supermarket gimmicks. The Tate Gallery’s fine building offer a range of unique settings in which to entertain clients. is not restricted to the Development Office. Because public relations is the primary goal for sponsors. especially in Britain.exhibitions and services. then. on the Thames close to Westminster.

and Britain’s arts projects become even more penurious. Autumn 1993. in the early 1980s. 46 The Arts Council went so far to issue a guideline requesting a ‘decent acknowledgement’ from its funded arts organizations. ‘they should not be surprised if such sponsors go back to the football terraces. 22 September 1979. A similar complaint was made by Lynette Royle.’47 Penurious or not. the Arts Council was becoming ‘increasingly aggressive in demanding the complicity of critics’. ‘An Honest Broker’. the public relations manager of Guinness. The Financial Times. 13. maintaining that companies obtained unjustified publicity. See ‘Credit the Connection’. the BBC made the concession of announcing the sponsors’ names on broadcasts of concerts and operas. the sponsorship-broker turned Secretary-General. p. sponsors for whom publicity is an expressed objective will choose the sports sector as their vehicle in preference to the arts’. the Guardian’s arts correspondent. 15 February 1986. but that they ‘lobby hard for it’. p. whereas it was. 11.46 The shift. to do so is to give business sponsors what amounts to free advertising. whereas since 1983 the Council was in the hands of Luke Rittner. 47 Brian Angel was director of ART/London 89. by distributing special notices informing them. of course. from time to time. Autumn-Winter 1989. the sponsots threatened to withdraw their support. 3. ABSA Bulletin. 19 March 1980. the primary supporter of the arts in Britain. one of the sponsors’ supporters. see ‘Success at Last: The Media Credit Breakthrough’. through the personal intervention of Norman St John-Stevas. and still is. both arts ministers and the Arts Council join forces to ‘cook up’ ways and means for sponsors. Roy Shaw was in charge of the Arts Council in the early 1980s. Classical Music. Naturally ABSA has fought a consistent battle on this issue over the last fifteen years. All our press officers will talk to the journalists and say please remember that such and such companies sponsor the exhibition. was due to the fact that. the Arts Council had been complaining seriously about the arts bodies it subsidized. and. have adopted the same tactic of promoting the causes of their sponsors and monitoring the ‘mileage’ obtained in the press. then arts minister. According to Waldemar Januszczak. proudly announces ‘success at last’.sponsors in editorial columns. which. be it in America or Britain. More surprisingly. see Antony Thorncroft. p. that ‘they were expected to thank the sponsors in their copy’. 45 . ABSA Bulletin. In the early 1980s. and to run the risk of making newspapers advertising broadsheets. and ‘Two Paymasters for the Arts’. at the Renoir exhibition held at the Hayward Gallery in 1985. means ‘We call them all the time. says Brian Angel. ‘No Way to Treat a Thoroughbred’.45 No one could miss the irony that. in effect. The Guardian. arts organizations. whatever reservations one may have about his Council tenure. One of the development officers in a prominent New York museum revealed that there was resistance from journalists. ‘If those writers in newspapers purporting to support the arts cannot come to terms with nourishing new arts sponsorship through valid editorial references’.’ A similar view was expressed by a development officer in a London art gallery: 45 Waldemar Januszczak. Taking offence at the ‘lack of co-operation’ by some arts journalists. ‘But I am fearful that unless people wake up a bit.

And until recently the newspapers took the line that.. that this equals a mere five hours of BT profits. The development officer commented upon one or two journalists who said ‘absolutely no’ to her: ‘they’re just stubborn about it.8 million arts budget—not forgetting. a development which is even more pronounced in 1990s Britain. as the arms manufacturer United Technologies Corporation declared. each time . 40. the BT spent another £800.. We have to persuade the journalists and editors .8 million in 1995. sponsors utilize the opportunity to trumpet their generosity and high-minded ‘corporate citizenship’. p. such opposition is being voiced less and less. they wanted ‘to be guaranteed that the final products have a unified look and meet their standard of quality. By offering the ‘impoverished’ art museum a gift of publicity which it otherwise cannot afford. an equally large promotional budget to publicize art exhibitions. however. to gain access to the editorial pages of ‘quality’ papers has intensified. In the 1990s the practice has been extended to labelling institutions. and they are not helping to ensure that art activities continue in the way they can.. Business and the Arts: How They Meet the Challenge.We monitor it [press coverage].. So now we do not have a 48 Diane J. DC 1984. Built-in to sponsorship money to art museums is. for example. I spend a lot of time on telephone to critics and art editors that I know are covering the show. they do it. By incorporating the sponsor’s name into the title of the event or organization it sponsors. arts administrators and governments dedicated to market principles. then they are not helping us in gaining sponsorship. What has made corporate power so menacing. is the fact that.. Washington. In the 1980s. because that doesn’t do them any harm to put the name of the sponsor at the end of the review at all. thereby making them inseparable. though popular. they maintain control over both the promotional dollars and eventual outcome because. however.’ If some journalists or art critics tried to take a firm stand against corporate power. As a result. the sponsors are certain to wring as much publicity as possible from their act of good will. partly as their sponsors’ need. For an annual arts budget of £1. if BP wants to have their names on our newspapers. among other requirements. at a rate of £100 a second—BT now demands its name be incorporated into any sponsorship deal. they can buy an advert. Gingold. they certainly can buy their way through one means or another. after decades of concerted joint action by business sponsors. you know.000 in back-up costs. We work very hard. if the newspapers don’t help us to provide the kind of benefit which is available potentially to the sponsors.. 46 . On the whole. sometimes it’s a bit of an argument we have on the telephone. this kind of ‘title sponsorship’. even if they cannot succeed in the battleground of print media. as long as I get through to them. We send sponsors every bit of the press . was largely confined to events such as BT New Contemporaries or Barclays Young Artist Awards. With its huge £1.‘48 The Law of Logos More menacing still is the metamorphosis in identity that arts organizations have undergone. therefore.

which was set up by the Conservative government in 1984 to encourage arts sponsorship by giving cash to corporate sponsors. ‘Patronage by Numbers’. while pandering to a corporate giant which wields enormous power and influence both in the British Isles and globally? In fact. Toshiba is the very embodiment of cultural domination exercised by the multinationals. The Guardian. but more discreetly. the new sponsorship logo was so designed that the Toshiba presence was conspicuous and unmistakable. Such changes—and there were many—according to its then director. with another £75. The dilemma is this: how can the ICA reconcile the bold position of proclaiming its mission to ‘stimulate.000 for the status of ‘Primary Sponsor’ for three years.49 In the field of visual arts. ‘we are particularly grateful for Toshiba’s involvement in the ICA’. but the premises of the ICA were turned into a commercial showroom for the company. was prominently on display in the entrance hall. educate and astonish’. A purposebuilt showcase of Toshiba products. sometimes called the ‘Toshiba Mission Statement’. Although it was not exactly called ‘Toshiba ICA’. at other times. and ‘challenge orthodoxy in the arts’. Their ambitions are so great that it is entirely appropriate to describe their activities in the cultural sphere 49 50 Andy Lavender. 13 January 1993. ‘Risky Business’. The Pairing Scheme was launched in February 1995 to replace the BSIS (Business Sponsorship Incentive Scheme). writing in the biannual report for 1993–95. was reported as saying that arts organizations have never objected to this contractual obligation. 12 July 1994. as well as contributing to the ‘Innovation Commission’. Toshiba paid some £300. entitled ‘Toshiba Centre of Excellence’. ‘immortalized’ in the Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art.’51 It was only fitting. Mik Flood. ‘Toshiba—In Touch with Tomorrow’. stressing its slogan. which amounted to upwards of one million Toshiba logos in the first year. but a ‘BT Scottish Ensemble’.50 But what made the deal a ‘new departure’ was more than the ubiquitous appearance of the sponsor’s logo. Not only did the ICA bulletins and catalogues now carry an editorial statement from the sponsor. Rodger Broad. given the permanent presence that Toshiba already occupies at the Victoria and Albert Museum. the company’s head of sponsorship and advertising. were due ultimately to the shortage of money which ‘can make you become a tick-over organization with programming that’s dull and bland because you have nothing to finance your ambitions with. the most notorious title sponsorship deal has been that between the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) and Toshiba Information Systems which was set up in April 1994.‘Scottish Ensemble’. then. which is itself designed to raise the profile of the sponsor. The Times. 51 Claire Armitstead. that Flood should applaud the largesse of Toshiba’s money. with the added phrase ‘sponsored by’. and the company’s televisions and videos were extensively used in its exhibitions. ‘ICA/Toshiba’.000 cash handout from the Conservative government through its Pairing Scheme (the National Heritage Arts Sponsorship Scheme) to pay for publicizing and marketing the sponsorship. 47 .

notoriously. however. the House label is what Fredric Jameson referred to as ‘pastiche’. the House label on Beck’s beer bottles. 1983–1998. Like the Tate Gallery. or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’. House was original. The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern. 11 May 1989.000 Turner Prize in 1993 (and. aimed at capturing one institution after another. simply not concrete enough. Assertions like this are simply unsustainable. that has lost its sense of humour’. perhaps. the longest-serving Arts Minister under Mrs Thatcher. House. and assess what impact that association might have. 2.with the buzzwords of the 198os—raids and take-overs. p. always something of an illusion. Altering the Cultural Climate Given the earlier discussion and the survey results. casting ridicule on the ‘normal’ House. is not. then. 28 May 1995. 54 Robert Hewison. reprinted in a modified form in Jameson. ‘Luce Vows “No Artistic Interference”’. House. Rachel Whiteread’s creation which won her the £20. to a large extent. my emphasis. ‘Out to Change the Message on a Bottle’. The Sunday Times.000 from the K Foundation for the worst body of art produced in the previous year). when the label is more valuable than the contents’. and Beck’s is ‘the beer you buy not to drink . the ICA is set to expand its premises for the next millennium—moving into a new purpose-built building— and is determined to acquire yet more corporate money. also designed by Whiteread. . but its sister product. for the Institute cannot afford to question its own practice of serving corporate interests. which before its demolition was situated in a derelict part of East London. p. 53 See Fredric Jameson. who is president of the Association of Business Sponsorship Awards [sic]. or at most. NLR 146. was ‘brewed’ by Artangel. The Stage. For example. predicated on the assumption that there is a clear distinction to be made between the so called ‘artistic side’ and ‘anything else’. 10. . What. 4f. Verso.53 The irony is that House is the house you cannot walk into. £40. and subsidized by Beck’s beer.54 52 Alys Hardy. p. . not least because of the way in which contemporary art has developed to the point where its very identity and reception depend. and then removing the exterior to reveal the shape of the rooms. it is very difficult to imagine what point Richard Luce.’52 This and other similar contentions are. involved casting the interior of an entire terraced house. p. 48 . ‘Postmodernism. On the contrary. such as its financial sources or ideological profile. on works of art being framed within a specific context. might have been attempting to make when he maintained that there was ‘no artistic interference’ from sponsors: ‘Lord Goodman. a ‘blank parody . London 1998. does Flood mean precisely when he so proudly announces that the ICA ‘continually challenges its own assumptions?’ That image is. . and even radical in its approach to sculptural space and in the way in which it explored our notions of domestic space. July–August 1984. has been involved in the arts for 17 years and has never once come across a firm wishing to take over the artistic side of a venture. 64f.

By dispensing money as widely as Philip Morris had been doing. taking with them some 2. 49 55 . ‘Philip Morris Calls In IOUs in the Arts’. ‘crazy. through its mediation.55 Fighting back. the tobacco companies were buying the critical silence of arts bureaucrats and their institutions. theatre. threatening to move its headquarters elsewhere if the bill passed. and to the question of how. the vice president in charge of the company’s cultural programme. and none of the museum people whom I interviewed in May 1995 would dare to speak about the company’s actions. Art museums. reportedly visited Vallone to appeal against the bill. Ironically.000 employees. but wacky’. pp. by implication. ‘Second-hand Smoke Hits Arts Angel’. The New York Times. were to decline’. Their version of the story was. different from that reported in the media: it was Karen Hopkins from the Brooklyn Academy of Music. all its arts support. the statement of the company declared intimidatingly on 28 September. ‘If the level of such corporate support. at a time when the New York City Council was considering a bill that would ban smoking in virtually all public places in the city. 57 Ibid. Philip Morris further urged arts organizations that they had funded to ‘put a good word with Peter F. 17 October 1994. ‘the quality and quantity of the dance. power is transferred and transformed in a capitalist democracy. apparently spelling out its implications for Philip Morris’ funding of the arts. 56 Quoted in Jeffrey Hogrefe. The New York Observer. C14. The issue remained largely academic until The New York Times ran a front-page story on 5 October 1994 entitled. for whatever reason. the City Council and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani managed finally to turn the bill into a law which came into effect on 1 January 1995. have been struggling over the years with the ethical implication of accepting money from tobacco industries.57 Despite the multi-million dollar advertising campaign from the tobacco industry.The Art World Inhales When it comes to the ethical aspect of art museums. 5 October 1994. such as South Africa under apartheid. Stephanie French. music and art exhibitions offered here might be diminished. Philip Morris is a very powerful presence in the art world. the world’s largest tobacco company blackmailed the City. and. ‘Philip Morris Calls In IOUs in the Arts’. wonderful fund-raiser.’56 In desperation at the proposed bill. A similar story was mentioned in passing two days earlier in The New York Observer but it was too brief to raise any controversy: ‘Philip Morris’ Blackmail Scam’. along with other arts organizations. The New York Observer. who first came up with the idea of calling up the City Council and suggested it to the company: Paul Goldberger. it was the interviewee from Philip Morris who admitted that there was some ‘conversation’ between the company and the major art museums in New York. however. 3 October 1994. the City Council Speaker’. Vallone. the problem with sponsorship appears even more acute. the main sponsor of the bill. 1. and in Britain the blacklist also includes the armaments industry and certain political regimes.

on the contrary. for the size of the company and the power it wields. we can’t take your money because of what you do. as the custodians of humanistic values. but just that ‘we are exempt from the law’. we don’t do that with anyone. But. at the service of corporate economic interests—even though on this occasion Philip Morris was unsuccessful in its efforts. to some extent. ‘Smokers and Non-Smokers are Welcome’. into political power. . four or five of our friends. but we are not lucky enough to have the money to say. very low key. however. And you know. “No. the spokesperson stressed that ‘we never do anything illegal’. certainly you could. Even after the new law took effect in 1995. Indeed. to which Philip Morris donated $1 million.But there’s never no pressure [sic]. . by not speaking out against the dangers of smoking. is open 50 . the building is exempt from the law. you know. . I would argue. If you want to say something.Yes. And it was all really in reaction to what was initiated by arts organizations themselves. This is the moment. the Tate Gallery does have a formal policy regarding sponsorship.I don’t think it’s pressure tactics. If you want to call the City Council and we are important to you. symbolizing its ultimate power. a sign at the reception of the company’s headquarters announced. they have always portrayed themselves. To what extent such principles are strictly adhered to. but this was revoked in 1994 after the constitutional changes there. Stephanie [French] went to. Sponsorship from drinks companies is not accepted for youth projects. or have funded it for many years. at least in the bourgeois culture of late capitalism. The unmistakable signal is that even the largest museum in the US cannot afford to indulge in ethical judgements of any kind when it comes to issues of money. Although art museums are hardly places where radical politics are played out. the museums are selling out their mission. the Metropolitan Museum permitted the company to hand out cigarettes at the opening night of Origins of Impressionism. with four or five major institutions we are on the board of. the Met. . at which the ‘cultural capital’ accumulated by the corporation is transformed.” We don’t do that. you can. in Britain public art museums and galleries still maintain. Nor is the power of Philip Morris in the arts world so easily circumscribed. . called them and said: ‘This is what’s happening. maybe.’ By comparison. I think it’s a fair way to say: this is what’s happening. the gallery did not allow association with companies involved with South Africa. in the most naked manner.’ That’s it. and. In the past. For instance. according to the gallery: It does not accept sponsorship from tobacco companies or companies dealing in armaments. by lobbying for the tobacco cause. you can’t say. . which they always paradoxically proclaim as ‘life enhancing’. As one of its senior officer apologetically remarked. by accepting tobacco money. and have advocated a spiritual enrichment role for the art works housed under their roof. that was it. a sense of public accountability for the public funds they receive every year. ‘When you are a charitable institution. Although cigarette smoking as such is prohibited in museums. do it. the Guggenheim.

11. noted that his company’s entry into Czechoslovakia was helped by their meeting with its playwrightpresident Václav Havel at a question. Moreover. p. 9 March 1992. occupying an entire City block. 51 . the nature of corporate capital in the late twentieth century is so internationally mobile. is a case in point.’59 While the Nomura Room was scheduled to open in the early months of 1990. The timing of the two events was hardly mere coincidence. mergers and demergers over the past fifteen years. 69. 58 News of this rare munificence reached the ears of the Prime Minister. As a result. Gilbert de Botton. then director of Corporate Communications at Nomura. Given their enormous capital. named the Nomura Room in honour of the company. At a seminar held at Nomura headquarters in February 1992. Nomura International. Apparently the Tate has in the past been lenient in defining what business association literally meant: was BP not heavily involved in South African oil and coal industries at a time when the gallery was in receipt of its largesse? Entrance Fees The problem of sponsorship from multinational companies has disturbing implications for a democratic state. Ibid. and the Council’s chairman and the Gallery’s trustee. Nomura Securities donated £1. that it requires systematic and consistent efforts to examine such changes. multinationals can easily manoeuvre art exhibitions or indeed arts organizations across national frontiers to wherever their markets dictate. Through the International Council of the Tate Gallery. director general of ABSA. The Financial Times.60 The coup was succinctly summed up by Colin Tweedy. Further. the policy is defined so as to allow a wide scope of interpretation. Furthermore. p. Accountancy. you 58 59 Mary Brandenberg. Keith Clarke. the European tour of the Royal National Theatre productions of Richard III and King Lear. ‘Identity Crisis’. its new European headquarters. and ‘A Trend Towards the Multinational Approach’. which was only made possible by sponsorship of the tour to Prague. p. who praised the company: ‘I am delighted that Nomura Securities are giving this money to build a new gallery and I hope that other firms will follow their lead. Margaret Thatcher. The Financial Times. The case of the Nomura Room at the Tate and Nomura Securities. was opened on 31 December 1990 by John Major on his last day as Chancellor of the Exchequer. September 1988. ‘the largest façaderetention scheme in Europe’. the world’s largest stockbroking company. After all. ‘Sustenance: From the Ciry’. and business interests are so diversified after the frenetic spree of take-overs. 60 Antony Thorncroft. ‘If you are a Japanese business trying to break into Europe. 3 February 1992. the origins and backgrounds of gift-givers may not always be immediately clear.5 million to the Tate to refurbish one of its rooms. showed that Nomura donations were not unconnected with wider corporate strategy. sponsored by Nomura in early 1991 to mark the opening of its Prague and Budapest offices in the new freeenterprise zone of East Europe. 13. Nomura Securities won important commissions from the Czech and Hungarian governments.

‘Advertising: The Magic System’. politicians and business contacts. ‘The Art of Patronage’. The spokesperson at the company would answer none of my enquiries. so that it can be approved or corrected if necessary. Ryutaro Hashimoto. it was revealed. Nomura’s very large donation was hardly reported in the media. in their words. with the American and Quoted in Matthew Fletcher. the receiving institutions are obliged to be ever more discreet. p. 52 61 . The Nomura case also illustrates one of the most remarkable and questionable aspects of recent sponsorship development.000 ICA/Toshiba deal. that is. as in the case of the National Theatre’s European tour and other similar multinational arts ventures. it revolved around similar influencebuying activities and the gaining of access to overseas. But it is fair to say that. the three-year £500. and one might add. I was ‘requested’ to send them ‘any part of [my] thesis referring to the Tate before submitting it. Along with the great influx of private capital. p. and that Gilbert de Botton was. 9. decided in Japan. ‘related’ to the deal—de Botton’s own multinational finance company. Problems in Materialism and Culture. Verso. for it is of increasing importance in the British economy. is one of Nomura’s clients.want to do everything as “unJapanese” as you can. particularly foreign. so that some of the minority decisions are not even taken inside the society which they affect. London 1980. except to say that the donation was a one-off matter. into foreign hands. Nor was the Tate much more forthcoming. Moreover. the veil of secrecy that is drawn over so many deals. saying that any arrangements between the Gallery and Nomura were ‘confidential information’. July–August 1991. in sharp contrast to the attention given to. Accountancy Age. in October. it is impossible to say for sure what access the Nomura donation to the Tate was meant to ‘buy’. in late June. 193. this is not a matter of the traditionally secretive ethos of the Japanese business world being imported into Britain—the British are quite capable of manufacturing their own secrecy—but rather of the implications for national democracy of multinational companies’ cultural operations. The extent of the scandal was such that it eventually led to the resignation of Japan’s finance minister.000. into British public art museums and galleries since the Thatcher days.62 At the same time that the Nomura Room at the Tate was about to be opened. Global Asset Management. that Nomura Securities in Japan— along with the other three biggest securities houses—was involved in one of the largest financial scandals since the war.’ Now. say. 62 Raymond Williams. In a different but relevant context. or Beck’s gift of £350. Raymond Williams eloquently commented on the rise of advertising in a capitalist economy: It is the result of allowing control of the means of production and distribution to remain in minority hands. in this case British. What could fit the bill better than staging Shakespearean English theatre?’61 Since no ‘public’ record exists.

British regulators (Securities and Exchange Commissions and Securities and Futures Authority respectively) investigating the company’s practices in each of their countries. That dominance. As Fay Ballard. ‘The Tate is like a hungry animal. ‘The Art Donors’. from Olympia & York and the London Docklands Develop63 64 Dalya Alberge. perhaps. head of development at the Tate.’ Or as BP’s aggressive advertising campaign has it: ‘Thanks to BP. extensive secret dealing with Japan’s second largest organized crime syndicate. And what greater irony could there be than that the Nomura Room. Emblazoned all over exhibition leaflets and banners is always the epigraph of gratitude: ‘The exhibition is made possible by a generous grant from Corporation X. should now turn out to be a permanent memorial of embarrassing indiscretion for the Tate? Art and Advertising In Britain.64 No artist’s career has been more closely linked with corporate sponsorship than that of the art-world star. in financial circles. 53 . The Independent. p. 15. a change whose impact is only now becoming visible as the end of the century approaches. the 1980s wrought a profound change in art museums. but the question of tainted money should be a concern. It needs continuous feeding. a logical consequence of companies’ economic power. originally designed to elevate the company on the global stage into the corporate pantheon. and of course still are. above all. linked with blockbuster shows. as in the United States. However. Alexander. Hirst’s career has from the beginning prospered thanks to sponsorship. help to create in the visitor’s mind the illusion of today’s art museums being sites of a series of megashows sustained by corporate largesse. Damien Hirst. but without success. It is also at this juncture that one has to ask how corporate sponsorship has affected the artists and their artistic careers. One of the manifest effects of this corporate-processed message is on the public perception of the art museum. throughout the year the Tate is able to re-hang each of its galleries with New Displays and so bring you more of its masterpieces. As Robert Hewison pointed out. tax evasion and. 25 February 1992. except.’ These messages. From Philanthropy to Funding. and in the art world in general. Crucially. The malpractice for which Nomura was convicted included illicit compensation for favoured clients. an issue that Victoria Alexander tried to measure statistically. Public consternation in Japan may not be a concern in Britain. at least in Britain the fact is that the public sector still provides the majority of funding for art museums and galleries. as an issue that is only financial is a fundamental mistake. exposed to a climate of chronic financial insecurity without the support that used to be provided by government. has had a profound impact on the cultural landscape of both British and American society. Inagawa-Kai. British art galleries were. But to view the dominant corporate presence in art museums. while there are no precise figures available for American art museums showing a distinction between public and corporate money.’63 Straitened financial circumstances and the rise of arts sponsorship go hand in hand. put it.

p. New York 1987. ‘lest it become a state-imposed culture at odds with the American pluralist tradition. The TUC Working Party Report on the Arts. So called ‘plural funding’. Häagen-Dazs at the Serpentine Gallery in 1994. as the former Arts Minister Richard Luce put it: ‘This plurality of funding means that arts organizations can spread their risks. whose manipulation of sheep. 68 Kevin V. vol. but you could make a political point by doing something really gruesome with animals. who wish to ride on the image of the young. Mulcahy. which combines the ‘shock’ value of cutting-edge art with sponsorship from the bourgeois world that the avant-garde once set out to challenge. and the commission of designing the sets for the contemporary opera Agongo. to the BT New Contemporaries in 1989. Yet in the process the artist becomes one more piece of advertising. 67 Ibid. ‘Government Goals’.ment Corporation.’69 The democratic appeal of such funding.’67 It has long been argued and advocated by conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic that. p. Jr. ‘Government and the Arts in the United States’. 11. As Hewison put it: ‘So sponsorship can become just one more piece of artist’s material. p. that have made it attractive to sponsors who are looking for a specific market. however. Hirst. was only another piece of privatization designed to move art museums and galleries from the public domain into corporate hands. are not subject to any degree of democratic control. Katz. 313. Summer 1987. ‘Message on a Bottle’. Cummings. It does nothing but reinforce the underlying economic relationships in society. eds.. this often means that the role of federal government should be restricted and indirect. sponsored by Beck’s in 1995. cows and sharks preserved in formaldehyde once put him at the centre of controversy in London avantgarde circles.66 Hirst’s career.’70 The increasing take-over of nonRobert Hewison. you can’t avoid that side of life. Ibid. is perhaps most qualified to speak on the topic: If art is about life. and Richard S. who supported his banal student show Freeze. Plural funding adds to the vitality of the arts and acts as a safeguard against any restrictions on artistic expression. unlike his public counterpart. simply cannot be substantiated. In America. London 1976. 70 Trades Union Congress. and sponsorship is all part of it. and getting sponsorship from Friends of the Earth. The Patron State. the arts should be funded from a variery of sources. 30. in Milton C. to guarantee choice in a democracy. 66 65 54 . Undoubtedly it affects the reception of the work but that is something to work with. 9. and become less dependent on one source of funding. as demonstrated in this essay. Greater London Arts Quarterly. It is precisely the outrage and publicity that cutting-edge art often generates. At Goldsmiths’ College they really encouraged breaking down barriers and finding new ways to do things.65 This glittering career reached a crescendo when Hirst won the Turner Prize in 1995.’68 A similar rhetoric has often been expressed in Britain in the concept of plural funding. the cool. I don’t see myself approaching the Meat Marketing Board. the innovative. 69 Richard Luce. is only apparently a paradox. To quote the Trade Union Congress’ report: ‘It is important to remember that the activities of the private sponsor of the arts.

These may be suggestive of the directions that corporate intervention in the arts will take in the coming decades. can be seen in the recent practice of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in Oxford. art sponsorship continues to go from strength to strength. in Britain.’72 The case of IBM is not an isolated one. we’re in the information technology business. 50 Years of Collecting: Art At IBM. corporate intervention took on a zeal and a pace which can be seen. This collection. and shows no sign of the decline that is beginning to be discernible on the other side of the Atlantic. ‘Writing on the Wall for IBM’s $25m Collection of Paintings’.73 in 1996 the Museum held an exhibition 71 Nicholas Bannister. it came to be considered as an ‘unnecessary asset’ and the decision was taken to dispose of it. IBM suffered the worst financial losses in its history. as ‘the solid commitment of the IBM Corporation world-wide to support art . one from America. 72 IBM. the other from Britain. In the new climate of financial stringency. and taking pride in having been ‘Britain’s leading alternative space in the 1960s and early 1970s’. . in its exhibition catalogue of 1989. I will briefly examine two particularly significant recent events. Oxford. to use the current euphemism. IBM undertook a largescale down-sizing. the world’s largest computer manufacturer. but. from its very beginning. The Guardian. p. 14. fulfilled a major public relations function. and looking towards the future. New York 1989. 55 . In its heyday during the 1980s. started by IBM’s founder Thomas Watson in the late 1930s and since heralded as ‘one of the most important American corporate collections’. Boastfully labelling itself as ‘one of Europe’s most influential museums’.’71 This is in stark and ironic contrast to what IBM described. . it came perilously close to the sun and its plumes are in danger of wilting as economic difficulties loom. must open our eyes to the fact that the rise of arts sponsorship is at best a mixed blessing. however. Like an Icarus rising on the wings of financial speculation. Like other companies across the US. 15 February 1995. in retrospect. Museum of Modem Art.economic domains by corporations. one of the most remarkable features of late capitalism. The IBM Art Collection By way of summing up developments in the 1980s. As part of their cost-cutting efforts. ‘right-sizing’. 73 Leaflet entitled ‘10 Good Reasons Why You Should be a Friend of MOMA’. to have been both over-ambitious and over-confident. Absolut Advertising Meanwhile. and its willingness to host a sponsor’s advertising campaign masquerading as an exhibition. IBM not only closed its Gallery of Science and Arts in its New York headquarters in August 1994. 50 Years of Collecting: Art At IBM. To quote the company spokesman: ‘We are not in the art business. sold off a substantial part of its art collection— estimated at 90 per cent of its total value—through a series of auctions at Sotheby’s in New York in 1995. more significantly. or. During the recession in the early 1990s. The unprincipled jettisoning of an art institution’s integrity. had.

74 Playing on the words ‘absolute’. 11 October 1995. the title can be read as ‘Absolut[e] Vision’ or ‘Absolut Vision’. or ‘About Vision’. as an ‘exciting new work’. 10. and for whatever audience it is intended. Absolut Vodka have also broken new ground in actively seeking to integrate themselves into the very heart of the exhibition with an audacity hitherto unknown among sponsors in Britain. was praised by the departing director of the Museum. the intervention into art of the Swedish-born brand Absolut Vodka has a history that is both proud and tainted. Their thrusting commercial ambition to position their brand in the fashionable upmarket reaches of the international advertising world has been pursued alongside a policy of associating itself with experimental and avant-garde art. 75 From the Fine Art of Advertising to the Advertising of Fine Art. As they themselves now proudly proclaim. 16. Not content with being pioneers in intrusive advertising. it certainly is a new vision that has radically and irreversibly changed the way in which we look at the world of art and commerce. ‘Absolut’ (a brand of vodka) and ‘about’ and their sounds and visual graphics (‘s’ and ‘l’ have a different type-face). in the late 1980s. New Jersey. as the company itself suggests. or perhaps that of the multinationals—Vin & Sprit in Sweden. the borders between art. While the Oxford MOMA is funded on a long-term basis by a distinguished list of public bodies. lithographic editions of which were sold at a huge profit by their former distributors.75 By capitalizing on the status of the avant-garde artists responsible for their advertisements. 56 . The painting. 76 Göran Lundqvist (President of the Absolut Company). or Seagram which distributes it? As a success story. Oxford 1996. ‘Art has become an important medium to express the basic values and magic of Absolut Vodka.with the truly ‘pioneering’ title of ‘Absolut Vision’—subtitled ‘New British Painting in the 1990s’.’76 Perhaps. The Guardian. which they specifically commissioned. in About Vision: New British Painting in the 1990s. ‘When Absolut Vodka is involved in an event. p. bearing Ofili’s favoured trademark of oil paint. Included in ‘their’ exhibition was a Chris Ofili painting featuring their famous vodka bottle. owners of the brand. see also ‘Absolut Beginner’. ‘the godfather of pop art’. p. over 600 artists have been deployed in the creation of its ‘artful ads’. The question that arises is this: if the show truly is a celebration of a vision of the next millennium.p. p. ‘Absolut Vision’. to do a painting of its bottle. which was destined to be added to Absolut’s own corporate art collection. fashion. 15. MOMA’s. The scale of the operation has been such that the firm can boast that’ Absolut Vodka has become a kind of global art gallery’. the owners and distributors of Absolut Vodka succeeded in transforming the spirit from a consumer commodity into an art form. it is to the private corporate sponsor of this 74 ‘Absolut Vision: New British Painting in the 1990s’ was held from 10 November 1996 to 23 February 1997. Carillon Importers of Teaneck. David Elliott. No less subtle as a sponsor’s advertising message is the title of the work. PR and marketing blur long before the first drink is poured.’77 Whoever’s vision it is. Imported. whose vision is it? Absolut Vodka’s. 77 From the Fine Art of Advertising to the Advertising of Fine Art. Starting in 1985 when Absolut Vodka first commissioned Andy Warhol. glitter and elephant dung. publicity material published by the company. n. which echoes the prominent wording at the base of the vodka bottle.

78 The Museum is funded by the Arts Council of England. Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council. The current dominant position of corporations in the art world is. to be seen. Compared with the many moneyspinning expedients that the Conservatives imposed on museums and galleries in Britain.78 After a decade and more of Conservative governments’ promotion of the enterprise culture. Nor does the recent book Creative Britain. for example. at least. Moreover. 80 Chris Smith. How far New Labour intends any radical departure in its vision for the arts remains. business experience and values are still very much the order of the day. provide any clear insight into New Labour’s cultural policy. of course. and which continue to provide substantial state funding for the arts. the appointment of the media tycoon Gerry Robinson as chairman of the Arts Council of England would certainly seem to indicate that. Media and Sport announced that it would re-introduce free admission to all national museums in the next three years. dependent on public policy. it looks as if New Labour might indeed be contemplating broader public access to the arts. The collapse of the IBM art empire may well serve as a sign of impending strain and rupture within the system. a hegemonic position is never absolute.79 The Conservatives’ successive terms of office certainly succeeded in undermining the public funding of cultural life. on the ambitions and aspirations of arts institutions and their bureaucrats. there are other countries. London 1977. The Nationalization of Culture: The Development of State Subsidies to the Arts in Great Britain. the Department for Culture.80 Apart from being depressingly vague and obsessed with the economic importance of the arts. depending as it does on an equilibrium of a whole set of different factors. and to some extent. and it may well be that one day other sites of resistance can form to question and challenge what for the present remains the dominant order. 79 57 . London 1998. When Janet Minihan made her study of public funding of the arts in Britain in the mid 1970s. and subject as it is to a never-ending process of negotiation and re-negotiation. which are more reluctant to follow the path of this particular privatization. In its recent (1998) comprehensive spending review. Southern Art. While the process of privatizing culture in Britain and America has gone from strength to strength. rather than forward to the creation of a genuinely public culture. she chose to entitle it The Nationalization of Culture. from the pen of the Culture Secretary. the book gives the impression of looking back to the number-crunching ethos of the Conservatives and their insistence on value for money. France for example. and for offering a vision of its likely future. Janet Minihan. Creative Britain. on their own economic event that the credit goes for defining the present direction that art is taking. entrepreneurial visions and practices in the art world are by now fully home-grown products in Britain. when it comes to arts and culture. On the other hand.

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