They are bank bosses, financial, company captain, billionaires… They have a lot of money, shares traded, and they are sometimes large business owners.
The private sector is becoming more and more space in the culture. Commercial exploitation of art ? Or return to a long tradition of financing the creation by collectors ?
We already know the names of Francois Pinault (financial and businessman, among other owner of the french auction house Christie’s), Bernard Arnault (owner of the luxury group LVMH, which he is the President and CEO) or Edouard Carmignac (French investment banker and fund manager, and head of Carmignac Gestion, investment firm). They are the source of new places of contemporary art exhibitions, such as the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, or the Punta della Dogana in Venice, which now house some of the works collected by them.
In this way, these businessmen, financial or bank bosses (now classified as the largest fortunes) have revived the old scheme of patrons of art and paved the way for other investors who want to move the world of art and culture. In a tense budgetary situation where we clearly see the limits of public action in support of artistic creation, it is clear that private foundations have become key players in the cultural world. Patronage major exhibitions, partnership operations, constitution of museum quality funds, their scope has expanded. The destiny of contemporary art seems now linked to the luxury industry and Finance.
Nothing seems to have changed since the Florentine and Antwerp financiers who were recognized artists and patrons well paid. The status of a Michelangelo, a Veronese, a Rembrandt is far less remote than we think from that of a Jeff Koons or Takashi Murakami.
But the contemporary art market could not be as simple investment product ?
This is a whole world between the billionaire boss and the XXI century collector, advised by his asset manager, passionate scholars of the early twentieth century. Already in the 1960s, Peggy Guggenheim, back in New York, trusted, disillusioned, finding that the tax exemption had reduced art to a simple investment product, a lifestyle or a new snobbery. The famous heiress disavowed the ever cracked border between value and price of art.
Sign of a change of era, most large collections of contemporary art, that have foundations in France and abroad, were established in record time, at least in terms of time in the history of Art. Bernard Arnault for example, began in buying a Monet at an auction in New York in 1982. No one knows exactly its scope and nature, but we know that it is for personal collection (he said he had one more important private collections of Basquiat), partly due to acquisitions of its foundation. Most corporate foundations have formed their collections in less than twenty years, with enormous resources, both in terms of budgets for acquisitions as the cost of venues. These precisely are now accessible only foundations or corporate philanthropy.
Art is increasingly perceived as a single investment product. Consultancies Countless purchase of works, collection management, including within financial institutions. The luxury industry has been overtaken by corporate foundations from the banking and insurance sector. No measure of tax exemption, or possibility of medium term capital gain, not enough to justify the growing interest of companies and their leaders for contemporary art.
There are three reasons for this passion for contemporary art:
First, the creation of a foundation provides companies with a formidable tool of communication: strengthening the brand image, the company democratization, etc. Second, the foundation is now recognized as an integral part of business strategies. It is the continuation of its action. Finally, the tax aspect, mentioned above, is the source of tremendous development of this model. In some firms, art is even considered a managment tool. In a professional context, art can afford to escape, strengthen the stimulation and motivation of employees, and can appear as a driver of creativity (In Luxury world, we can think of the Cartier Foundation, Louis Vuitton Foundation, etc.)
About world bank and Finance, the BNP Paribas Foundation, since its inception, has never stopped to affirm its commitment to culture it considers a social necessity and an individual and collective development factor. It develops sponsorship actions in most of the 80 countries where it operates, via its various businesses or through dedicated foundations.
HSBC also is a partner or sponsor many cultural events like the Pavilion of Art and Design (Paris-London). HSBC also organizes the Prize for Photography, and is committed to support the work of its winners with international openness.