Privatising Culture: Corporate Art Intervention Since the 1980s

Overview

Corporate sponsorship and business involvement in the visual arts have become increasingly common features in our cultural lives. From Absolut Vodka’s sponsorship of art shows to ABN-AMRO Bank’s branding of Van Gough’s self-portrait to advertise its credit cards, we have born witness to a new sort of patronage, in which the marriage of individual talent with multinational marketing is beginning to blur the comfortable old distinctions between public and private.

Chin-tao Wu’s ...

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Overview

Corporate sponsorship and business involvement in the visual arts have become increasingly common features in our cultural lives. From Absolut Vodka’s sponsorship of art shows to ABN-AMRO Bank’s branding of Van Gough’s self-portrait to advertise its credit cards, we have born witness to a new sort of patronage, in which the marriage of individual talent with multinational marketing is beginning to blur the comfortable old distinctions between public and private.

Chin-tao Wu’s book is the first concerted attempt to detail the various ways in which business values and the free-market ethos have come to permeate the sphere of the visual arts since the 1980s. charting the various shifts in public policy which first facilitated the entry of major corporations into the cultural sphere, it analyses the roles of governments in injecting the principles of the free market into public arts agencies—in particular the Arts Council in Great Britain and the National Endowment for the Arts in the USA. It goes on to study the corporate take-over of art museums, highlighting the ways in which ;cultural capital’ can be garnered by various social and business ‘elites’ through commercial involvement in the arts, and shows how corporations have succeeded in integrating themselves into the infrastructure of the art world itself by showcasing contemporary art in their own corporate premises.

Mapping for the first time the increasingly hegemonic position that corporations and corporate elites have come to occupy in the cultural arena, this is a provocative contribution to the debate on public culture in Britain and America.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“... a meticulous account of the dominance of capital itself over the human spirit. The patrons of postmodernity are not white patriarchs of the haute bourgeoisie, aiming to bolster their privilege by imposing timeless, conservative verities on the masses. Instead, they transmit their values by sponsoring art which is disorienting, shocking, rebellious and cool. If anyone still wants to criticize the morality of the marketplace, they must also develop a critique of this commercial aesthetic. Chin-tao Wu's book is an excellent place to start.”—Times Literary Supplement

“A book which will long be of use to anyone who wants to understand the genetic character of contemporary culture. It presents an analysis which is methodical, detailed and clear. As a consequence, it is of great critical power.”—Michael Baldwin and Mel Ramsden, Art & Language

“A profoundly original and extremely important contribution to the study of corporate interests as they seek to benefit from and reshape the art world.”—Carol Duncan, Professor of Art History, Ramapo College of New Jersey

“A superbly researched and invigorating study.”—Library Journal

“Sobering and incisive ... Wu convincingly tells an ugly story of seduction and betrayal, one which anyone who cares about the future of art needs to hear.”—Publishers Weekly

Carol Duncan
A profoundly original and extremely important contribution...
Library Journal
Art and business two seemingly disparate worlds have become more intertwined since the 1980s in the United States and Britain. Wu (National Inst. of the Arts, Taiwan) presents a superbly researched and invigorating study of this trend. She discusses the evolution of government arts funding programs and the increasingly hazy boundaries between the public and private sectors, which has helped to facilitate the emergence of art-corporate relationships. As corporations began taking an active role in the art world funding and sponsoring programs, acquiring artworks, developing on-site exhibit/gallery spaces, presiding on boards of art institutions, etc. they reaped significant financial benefits and markedly enhanced their image. Concurrently, art institutions were able to expand their potential, although they experienced changes in structure and approach as a result. Wu offers a well-documented and intelligent analysis of these complex partnerships and their mutual impact. Her findings are supported by specific examples, charts, photos, statistics, survey results, and detailed research. This is not a work for most casual readers, but it should be of great value to art administrators, artists, scholars, and corporations. For specialized libraries as well as large art and business collections. Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ formerly with the Univ. of Illinois Lib., Urbana Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Wu (Nanhua U., Taiwan) describes and analyzes how contemporary culture, and especially art, has been subjected to the processes of privatization in Britain since the Thatcher era and in the US since the Reagan era. The study began as her 1997 Ph.D. dissertation in the history of art for University College London. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
Corporations conquer the art market. Anyone who comes to this intrigued by the title will be sorely disappointed by what follows. Art critic Wu (National Inst. of Art, Taiwan) has produced a frustrating, dogmatic, and occasionally laughable dissertation on the role corporations have come to play in the world of contemporary art. She limits herself to Britain and the US—and the US, for her purposes, consists of 30 square blocks in midtown Manhattan and a strip of K Street in Washington, D.C. The tone is an amalgam of the plaintive anti-Thatcher lament and High Soviet dialectic. The argument is that corporations have played an increasingly large role in the market for contemporary art. This is bad. Sometimes they're multinational corporations, which is really bad. Wu remarks that the people who sit on museum boards tend to be wealthy, and that corporations like to attach their names to the exhibits they sponsor for the publicity. None of this is news, but it is true enough. More disturbing is the author's manipulation of research to fit her thesis. Innuendo, implication of unseen conspiracies, and the use of what are intended to be rhetorical questions are some of her favored techniques. Her research, much of it drawn from newspapers, feels dated, perhaps because the bulk of it was done ten years ago for her doctoral thesis. Highly touted surveys completed by hundreds of corporations in England and America are barely used at all, and at one point the author seems stymied to find a museum trustee not listed in Who's Who. Her discussion of England is knowing, but her analysis of America is embarrassing. It's bad enough that she butchers the concept of tax expenditures and completelyoverlooks developments in Delaware corporate law that had a major impact on her topic; it's inexcusable that she has no feel for American history, politics, or culture. Not a pretty picture.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781859846131
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 4/30/2002
  • Pages: 392
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 8.12 (h) x 1.33 (d)

Meet the Author

Chin-tao Wu specialises in contemporary art and culture, and has contributed to New Left Review and Kunst und Politik: Jahrbuch der Guernica-Gesellschaft. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London and currently teaches at Nanhua University in Taiwan.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
List of illustrations and credits
List of tables
1 Introduction 1
2 Public arts funding in America and Britain: preliminaries 16
3 The changing role of government in the arts 47
4 Guardians of the enterprise culture: art trustees 83
5 Embracing the enterprise culture: art institutions since the 1980s 122
6 Corporate art awards 159
7 Showcases of contemporary art within corporate premises 188
8 Corporate art collections 212
9 Conclusion: from conservatism to neo-conservatism 271
Notes 305
Bibliography 357
Index 377
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