Culture is future » Financing and economic models


When culture is looking for new godfathers

For many years, public welfare in the cultural field has been claimed by Europe as the most efficient system from an economical point of view. Public grants even became a source of legitimacy for artists. But the current crisis implies to investigate new kinds of income: then, which transfer of legitimacy do these changes imply?


Palermo, on a Saturday night, piazza Garraffello : thousands of people gather at a weekly music show set up by Mafioso organizations, just like many other cultural events in Sicily. This method can naturally not be held as a model. Apart from the ethics underlying the decision, a Mafioso grant follows the same pattern as a public grant. Furthermore, it maintains the event in a local context and limits it to a forced confidentiality, locking it up to a simple subculture.

Let’s then have a look at Lebanon, a State that gave away the cultural field to private sponsorships since the end of Civil War. This model is not really operational because it remains asymmetrical: private sponsorship invests mostly in plastic arts because they are regarded as a safe investment. Performing arts are excluded. As a result, Lebanon let its artists escape. The playwright Wajdi Mouwad or composer Ziad Moultaka have long gone into exile. And from everywhere within the Arab world, other artists also flee from the shortage of funds, in particular to France, looking for an international platform –just remind the successful exhibition Paris and contemporary Arab art (Villa Emerige, 2011).

But nowadays, the innovative formula of individual contribution is becoming stronger. It comes from the digital economy and allows the consumer to express himself in a new way: either in a philanthropic way when it concerns the cultural heritage (just look at the Louvre’s success in raising funds to acquire the Three Graces by Cranach), or in an interested way, when he can become an investor, like, for example, in the field of music (Mymajorcompany being one example out of many). This formula continues to develop itself: new forms are being invented, especially in performing arts.  The best evidence of these dynamics may be the success of the eighteen-months-old occupation of the oldest theatre in Rome, the Teatro Valle. The threat of being transformed into a restaurant by the Mayor looming, the Teatro Valle has been invested by hundreds of Italian artists and technicians. They have immediately been relayed by the most famous Italian men and women in the cultural field. Still open thanks to volunteers, the self-managed Teatro Valle has merely rewritten the digital formula of crowd-funding into the physical world.

Do these developments allow viewers no longer to be passive as they used to be? The notion of consumer is now evolving into many other ones, such as investor or militant. This comes along with a loss of political leadership: is artistic legitimacy to be now won by a plebiscite again anew?


Information about Paris and contemporary Arab art

Information about Teatro Valle Occupato


Roman Kudelka‏

Photo : Teatro Valle, Roma – credits : Geomangio.