THE REINSTITUTE SALON////////// Andreas Backoefer ///////Cultural Philanthropy and Art Museums //////////////////////////// A Historical Approach
THE REINSTITUTE SALON | Andreas Backoefer | Cultural Philanthropy and Art Museums - A Historical Approach | Wednesday, December 7, 2016 | 7pm
Guest Spot @ THE REINSTITUTE would like to invite you to participate as our special guest in THE REINSTITUTE SALON. We will be welcoming our topic presenter Andreas Backoefer for an evening of awareness, knowledge exchange, dinner, and conversation. Andreas Backoefer will present research from his upcoming book on cultural philanthropy. As an invited Salon participant, we are excited for your contribution in our intellectual exchange in hopes to further Andreas Backoefer's ongoing research. Please join Guest Spot for an evening of insight in the development of innovative strategies surrounding cultural philanthropy.
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Andreas Backoefer is a scholar and writer. He worked at a Bavarian State Museum in Germany and from 1994-1997 as dramaturg at Theater Vorpommern. In 2000 he founded the publishing company epodium (art and performance theory). He is also the founder/director of epodium gallery (since 2013). He is curating exhibitions and was responsible for the organizational structure of performance festivals and art shows in Austria. He is experienced in working with institutions (e.g. Kunstvereine, Universities) in all aspects of planning and implementing art projects. In his research work he focusses on the interplay between the institutional framework of art institutions and artistic practice. He published 2015 his book “Kunsttheorie und Museumspraxis zwischen 1987 und 2012” (Art Theorie and Art Exhibitions between 1987 and 2012).
Andreas holds a Ph.D. in theater history.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the professionalization of art-dealing centrally contributed to the emergence of cultural philanthropy in the museum sector. It became clear to all participants that art works constituted an effective means of capital preservation – especially in times of economic crises. As the art dealers known as the Duveen Brothers put it during the world economic crisis of 1931, “it was better to hold pictures than stocks, as anyhow they were worth something, whereas stocks might go to nothing.”
To this day, important art collectors are also museum patrons. Two historical examples from the first part of the twentieth century are Andrew W. Mellon (National Gallery) and Robert Weeks de Forest (Metropolitan Museum of Art). In research, there have been two different interpretations of the origin of philanthropic giving. One approach localizes the starting point of this apparently American invention in the German, or European, system of patronage from the beginning of the nineteenth century. According to this argument, this model had made it across the Atlantic into the US with its knowledge bearers, and was there adopted with only a few adjustments. The second stream of philanthropic research delineates the differences between the European and American approach more clearly, questioning the model of a mere ‘taking over’.
The investment today’s philanthropists place in art is fundamentally targeted with suspicions, such as that of the aim being one of the fortification of one’s own, traditional, conservative aesthetics as part of a public discourse – of the funding targeting the production of “safe stuff”, sidelining new or untested “edgy stuff”. In several of his artistic projects, Hans Haacke has presented for discussion his vision of the sponsor as censor – in particular, in the important piece MOMA Poll, shown in the MoMA exhibition Information in 1970.
Differing aims among the sponsors effect the form of giving. The museum itself – following its own aims – is required to mediate between different fields of interest in order to finance a variety of projects which are to reach a wide public on the one hand and an expert audience on the other. What is to be negotiated is a continuous balancing between the demands of the sponsors and the museums’ aesthetic independence.
Within the economic system of exchange between capital and art, three terms are of central importance, requiring further clarification/examination: 1. Giving (in the sense of an ideology of sharing); 2. The Gift (in the sense of Marcel Mauss’ definition) and 3. Debt (in the sense of immaterial labour).
Depending on the relevant topographical position, art sponsoring follows different mechanisms. One of these is the American model: the indirect subsidy policy for arts and cultural nonprofits, which (through tax incentives) encourages giving by private foundations, corporations and individuals. Art, however, does not rank first: Andrew Carnegie’s Gospel of Wealth (1889) included a list of the ‛best fields’ for philanthropy in descending order of importance: universities, free libraries, hospitals, laboratories, public parks, meeting and concert halls, swimming baths, and lastly churches. Gifts were administered by and filtered through large institutions modeled after the profit-generating structures of the corporations that funded them.
In post-Communist Russia, where high-profile oligarchs inhabit leading positions, we can observe an unprecedented manifestation of philanthropy, a movement of considerable momentum. The so- called “Art Girls” are a group of women primarily sponsoring contemporary work and have already achieved a notable degree of fame: Irina Prokhorova, Marianna Sardarova, Stella Kesaeva, Daria Zhukova, Maria Baibakova and Sofia Trotsenko. Extraordinary amounts of money were made by these women’s fathers, brothers, or husbands, all prominent oligarchs who often express concerns in interviews that Russia must be driven forward by creative education, which is invariably linked to business interests in technology and advancement. Despite an inherited scepticism of philanthropy in post-Communist Russia, it is precisely through the intervention of this new third sector that public attitudes toward creativity and culture are changing. Irina Prokhorova regularly speaks of her approach to philanthropic work and the distinctions of the third sector from business enterprise, wealth, and the problems that have arisen from total reliance upon the state.
All six of these women have distanced themselves from selling art, although Trotsenko sells space to other dealers and Sardarova participates in art fairs, activities justified by both women as part of their pedagogical mission to expand Russian’s knowledge of art markets and to present contemporary Russian art within an international context. They share a common set of initiatives aimed at educating the wider public on international art movements in the twentieth century, in order to inform an understanding of contemporary art. In particular, they have brought exposure in Russia to contemporary international artists working from the 1960s onwards: artists such as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francis Bacon, Cindy Sherman and Damien Hirst. But more importantly, through their varied activities, these women have supported contemporary Russian art produced from the 1960s onwards, along with the development of emerging Russian artists.
Europe is currently at the threshold of moving from the European model of public funding towards the American model. It remains to be seen what kind of dynamism and modifications the transition will entail. Three case studies from Germany and the US concerning the relation between museum and sponsor from Germany are examined more closely: Haus der Kunst (Munich) / Okwui Enwezor; Hirshorn Museum (Washington) / Melissa Chiu and Pérez Art Museum (Miami) / Franklin Sirmans. Individual strategies on the part of collectors/sponsors are also taken into consideration.
Financial assistance from sponsors affects – to a non-negligible degree – the relation between museum and artist (especially in the case of commissioned work), and hence the issue of artistic autonomy. Artistic practice becomes properly aesthetic practice when problematizing the limits of art and of artistic autonomy. The aesthetic thus understood always returns to haunt circumscribed conceptions or forms of “autonomous art”. Autonomy is not a fact; we cannot possess it. If anything, autonomy is an exceptional occurrence in the realm of established, factual relations – including art and its institutions. And while it may be true that the aesthetic and the political never quite coincide, there can be a productive back-and-forth even within single practices and seemingly indivisible acts.
Three commissioned works by Thomas Hirschhorn are analyzed as case studies: (Deleuze Monument, Gramsci Monument and Timeline). Following on his earlier Spinoza Monument (1999, realized in the red light district of Amsterdam), Deleuze Monument (2000, at the Cité Champfleury on the outskirts of Avignon) and Bataille Monument (2002, at the Friedrich Wöhler housing complex in Kassel for Documenta 11), Thomas Hirschhorn culminated his series of ‘precarious monuments’ to a personal pantheon of philosophical heroes with Gramsci Monument, a temporary installation commissioned by Dia Art Foundation and sited on the Forest Houses estate in the South Bronx in New York City throughout the summer of 2013.
Gramsci Monument thus came to fruition more than a decade after the first three temporary installments and long after Hirschhorn’s reputation as an obstinately critical artist – and one who transcends the categorical limitations of relational aesthetics, under which he was originally lumped in the mid-1990s – had been academically cemented.
We can observe in the three projects just named a complex interplay of sponsoring, autonomy, critique and institution.