Commentary: Bank sponsorship of California arts festival is "disgusting"

Mat Gleason, art critic, HuffingtonPost.com, 11/1/11

A friend sent me her Bank of America ATM receipt with its upbeat encouragement to explore the website of Pacific Standard Time [a performance and public art festival in Southern California, January 19-29]. Could there be a crueler indictment of an art world that is convinced of its moral superiority to mainstream culture than to be subsidized by one of the criminal financial forces that has brought our culture to its very knees? I was seriously considering a boycott of the entire [festival] when I saw an entity sponsoring a cultural event after basically destroying the culture via the economy. For B of A to celebrate the very pulse that it now has contributed to killing is disgusting. But the era of the boycott seems to have vanished -- instead of the boycott's zero attention, the "occupy" era challenges power by giving perpetrators 100% attention. While there [was] a call on November 5th for people to remove their money from large financial institutions and open accounts at a local credit union, how do we as a region remove the art that defines our city and our times from the large art institutions? I suppose you don't need an answer to begin your occupation of the art institution of your choice. And if you cannot choose one, don't forget that the big banks collaborate with art educational institutions to profit mightily off of student loan debt.  A soul searching of the artists at the top of the Pacific Standard Time food chain is much more in order than for those laggards that history forgot.


Commentary: The corporate occupation of art

FROM TC: This Saturday in London, there will be afternoon of presentations and discussions at the Bank of Ideas, an abandoned office block owned by the bank UBS and squatted by Occupy LSX. One speaker will be the artist and lecturer Dean Kenning, who wrote:

Corporate sponsors and the institutions that they work with would always claim that sponsorship does not effect the art work in any way, and actually enables work to be shown. I would like to question this by looking at how corporate sponsorship of public galleries, art exhibitions and events programmes changes the character of art spaces and influences the content of work artists make and curators show. In response I would suggest the following: 1. critical art test the supposed neutrality of corporate sponsorship by highlighting the activities of those corporations and powerful individuals who use art to improve their image and gain cultural capital; 2. we think of alternative modes of exhibition and production away from the slick, high cost art world norms that institutions use to justify corporate sponsorship. We need to reclaim art from conformity and reclaim our public galleries from corporate creep.


Commentary: The difference between big banks and the arts

Robert Priest, NowToronto.com, 12/15/11

What do big banks and art have in common? They're both too big to fail. They both need bailouts, or as the financial community likes to call them, liquidity injections. The difference is, in the arts they're known as grants. Even if an artist is lucky enough to get one of the biggest ones there are, it's just enough for survival (average annual wage of a Canadian artist: $23,500), but not enough to breed public confidence in the art bubble. Whatever word you use, artists do with their stimulus money what the banks don't: they spend it, usually locally and often immediately. In the banking sector, piles of money sit in vaults uninvested. But I don't hold onto my grant money. As soon as it hits my hand, it's gone on to the next hand, spent on frivolous things like rent, food, paper. This is poetry money rising up and tripling itself and then diving right back into the economy.




Commentary: T.S. Eliot worked in a bank while he wrote poetry

Tyler Cowen, economics professor, The Freeman journal, issue of 12/95

Capitalism has proven to be the most favorable system for the arts. Shakespeare wrote for profit and marketed his plays to a wide audience. Marcel Proust did not write bestsellers but nonetheless lived off the capitalist wealth of his family to produce Remembrance of Things Past. Wallace Stevens worked as an insurance claimsman and William Carlos Williams worked as a doctor. T.S. Eliot worked in a bank while he wrote poetry. Paul Gauguin first accumulated his savings while working as a stockbroker and only later pursued a career in art. Other artists have engaged in the pursuit of money through their art itself. Mozart wrote to his father: "Believe me, my sole purpose is to make as much money as possible; for after good health it is the best thing to have." Charlie Chaplin once remarked: "I went into the business for money and the art grew out of it." These great creators did not "sell out," but rather turned their personal visions into material profit by reaching large numbers of eager customers. Bohemian and avant-garde artists, in spite of their frequent protests against capitalism, owe their existence to that system. Artists who do not care much about money are a luxury that can be afforded only in wealthy societies.


Commentary: Everyone loses if the arts vilify the support of banks

Carey Perloff, Artistic Director, American Conservatory Theater, HuffingtonPost.com, 1/9/12

At an opera performance I recently attended, a pre-show announcement indicated that the performance had been sponsored by a particular bank, at which point a huge number of audience members booed. I found the knee-jerk response extremely discouraging. There is no question that the rage across America about corporate malfeasance is well-founded, and that the collective frustration about banks reaping ill-gotten rewards on the back of the financial crisis is to some extent justified. But for years, nonprofits across the country have counted on national and local banks to support their work. We should also remember that banks are no more monolithic than any other organization. Within many banks are community-service officers who care deeply about the organizations they support. For many years, these individuals have lobbied within their own corporations for funding for a wide range of nonprofit activities. And now those officers feel betrayed by us. In private we take their grants, in public we boo when their support is announced. We expect them to give at consistent or even increased levels to combat the losses we have suffered due to the recession, yet we Occupy them at a moment's notice and vilify their leadership. If this is the road we choose to follow, everyone loses.


Commentary: Dear local HSBC branch, please don't pull your arts support

Erna Mahyuni, columnist for The Malaysian Insider, on her blog Earnestly Erna, 12/31/11

I heard that the local HSBC bank is pulling its arts funding. Why? Rumour has it that its CEO thinks funding the arts provides "no value". If this is true then I question said CEO's "values". HSBC is obviously too fixated on ROI. "Funding the arts isn't going to help us sell credit cards, loans or premier services." No, it probably won't. There is no justification, monetary-wise to give money to the arts. Yet taking away arts funding isn't going to help with the poor image banks and financial institutions have now, thanks to the shaky global economy. Banks take, and trade, on the needs of its customers. Using money held in trusts, banks routinely gamble on what they call "investments", encouraging consumers to build debt so as to rake in hefty interest on said debt. While people lose their homes or struggle to survive on credit, the top employees of banks like HSBC still make more money than the poorest of the poor will see in a lifetime. So is it too much, HSBC, to ask that you give a little back to the community? Is it a lot to ask for what to you constitutes pennies to support creative expression and the things that make life better?

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