The future of art patronage in an evolving society. From the Roman Empire to the Sheikhdom of Dubai


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[Patrons] are role models, who appreciate art as an asset and not a liability. We would like to push the idea of patron. This is someone who has a vision. It is not just a business, but also an evolution of humanity’.

Mishaal Al Gergawi, Project & Events Manager, Dubai Culture

The patron-client relationship and therefore the “patronage” concept are extremely embedded into our history as the difference and inequality between the “haves” and “haves-not” always existed. As many of us may know according to the The New Oxford American Dictionary, the word “patronage” stands for ‘the support given by a patron’ that is ‘a person who gives financial or other support to a person, organization, cause or activity’. As many of us will then agree, these words provide with a very general and limiting definition of “patronage” that, when applied to the arts sector, has to be more thoroughly investigated, discussing its history and providing tangible examples. We will try to guide this short journey towards the discovery of “art patronage”, starting from the meaning of the word itself to the changes it went through centuries and, finally, to the current “state-of-the-art” patronage in a country where a lot has been recently invested towards this direction: Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

1. Art Patronage as “Clientela”
It is possible to trace the birth of the “patronage” concept back to the Roman Empire when a “patricius” (patrician), being descendant of the “gentes originarie” or “patres” (founders of Rome), used to be patron of a “plebeius” (plebeian), citizen of a lower social class.
This dual relationship known as “clientela” was thus played by a “patronus” (protector) who used to take under its financial, social and political protection a “cliens” (foreigner) on the base of two main assumptions: the client needed the patrons’s resources and the patron needed his client’s loyalty and honour.
Moreover, it is still during the Roman Empire with the Emperor Octavian and his political advisor, quasi-culture minister, Gaius Maecenas that the word “patron” assumed it’s very first art-related meaning.
It is known in fact that since 42 b.C. with the Liberators’ civil war and until the Pax Augusta in 29 b.C., Octavian used the arts to restore order, foster peace and fertile prosperity throughout his Empire; era culminating with the construction of the magnificent Ara Pacis in 13 b.C.
Despite the role played by an important personality such as the Emperor, it is specifically due to Maecenas as being supporter of Virgil and Horace’s poetry, who subsequently became the banner for the new generation of Augustan poets, that the eponym “maecenate” started to be intended for the first time as “patron of the arts”.
Going forward of almost seventeen centuries and more specifically to Europe during the Renaissance times, the Roman “clientela” custom still intended as the patron-client relationship, became even more relevant to the art sector as the custom for many nobles, merchants and ecclesiastics to sponsor and provide protection to artists.
The richness of the early Italian city-states such as Milan, Venice, Florence, Naples and especially the Papal States was hugely invested into the arts giving birth to a new form of “patronage” often used as promotion of political ambitions, social position and prestige. At that time the “patron” was donor, sponsor, mentor and agent for the artists under his protection who often lived at his court trying to obtain commissions also from the patron’s friends.
Generally speaking, the Roman Catholic Church have been through centuries a downright “patron” of the arts all over the world with either the commissioning of religious decorative art and the building of churches as the St. Peter’s Basilica construction in 1506 but also the modern Ronchamp Chapel by Le Corbusier in 1950.
Alongside the well known noble families ruling the country during the Renaissance, we can identify the brothers Maffeo and Antonio Barberini as two specimen of “patrons”. Even more than Antonio who became Cardinal in 1628, his brother Maffeo elected as Pope Urban VIII in 1623, during his life patronised talented artists such as Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Pietro da Cortona, Gasparo Mola, Carlo Maderno and Andrea Sacchi who gave birth to some of the most magnificent artworks and constructions ever realised in art history.

2. Towards Contemporary Art Patronage
Going forward by one hundred years, we can learn that from the industrial age till the 19th century a lengthy and deep change in the socio and economic structure of society took place in the whole world as the birth of a conspicuous working class.
At the same pace also a major change in the patronising paradigm happened. Firstly because the middle class was more insecure about their appreciation of the arts and hence started to collect more contemporary art; and furthermore because of the birth of mass audiences and the beginning of the process for the democratisation of culture.
This relevant change culminated a hundred years after in the 20th Century with the birth of an “organized patronage model” composed by two main elements: “patronage” as private’s contribution and “public-support” as publicly funded art patronage.
Major accomplishments for this phase in the U.S.A. were for example the institution of museums, theatres, public entities, institutions and funds such as the American National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), founded in 1965 by an act of the U.S. Congress as independent agency of the federal government.
Despite this, being the NEA fund conceived as meagre and having stood from time to time on extremely conservative positions, the “patronage” affair was actually left even more to the market.
This belief in fact was also confirmed by the role still played at that time by major philanthropists such as David Rockefeller and his Business Committee for the Arts Inc. (BCA), born in 1967 as a national not-for-profit company based in New York aimed to increase philanthropic support for the arts.
As a confirmation that the ‘real action’ was elsewhere (in respect to public support) and more specifically ‘in business patronage, cultural philanthropy, and corporate funding of the arts; in corporate art and collecting; in corporate sponsorship as an art form in its own right; in funding for art in public places; and in new venture philanthropy’ (Garber 97:2008), in 1968 the BCA became the cosponsor of Esquire Magazine’s Business in the Arts Award awarded to the most cutting-edge partnership between a business and the arts community.
Since this occurrence, the concept of “art patronage” started to become everyday more relevant to the contemporary art system; corporate collections and corporate art galleries started to flourish for an innumerable amount of reasons: from providing customers with a positive public image or prestige, to being part of a corporate social responsibility strategies, to (in the worst case) merely speculate on the art market.
Hence, throughout the last centuries “art patronage” started to engage more and more with its contemporary meaning intended as financial or in-kind direct support by either public and private entities and individuals to artists, cultural projects, organizations and institutions operating in the visual arts, performing arts, literature, poetry and films sector.

3. The Dubai Strategic Plan 2015: The creation of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority
On 3rd February 2007, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, expressed his vision about the future of the Emirate in the ‘Dubai Strategic Plan 2015’ of which, as we extensively have heard during the past years, culture was a fundamental component.
According to the Strategic Plan, four key strategic objectives and the respective steps to reach them were identified:
?    Increase culture & arts awareness
•    Initiate robust dialogue with general public to generate interest
•    Create and implement marketing and PR strategy
•    Educate the public through heritage, culture and arts initiatives
?    Improve Governance & Upgrade Regulatory Framework
•    Develop policies and strategies for the heritage, culture and arts sector
•    Develop and implement appropriate institutional framework
•    Create regulatory framework for agencies
•    Develop and facilitate implementation of endowment and funding strategies
•    Develop and champion customer focused policies & regulations with government entities
?    Identify and Nurture Talent
•    Support and develop Emirati artists and culture professionals
•    Encourage development of heritage, culture and arts curricula in schools
•    Help create culture and arts education institutions for artists and professionals
•    Develop partnerships with leading institutions to attract artists to Dubai and inspire local talent to go abroad
?    Deliver Quality Cultural Activities & Develop Physical Infrastructure
•    Develop and promote Dubai’s heritage, culture and arts calendar
•    Collaborate with leading heritage, culture and arts organizations
•    Maximise public access to heritage, culture and arts events
•    Develop overall heritage, culture and arts venue strategy
•    Coordinate/influence the development of physical infrastructure
A fundamental pillar to start working towards this direction was the need for the Sheikh to set up a government’s arms-length office in charge of the cultural heritage and arts initiatives of the city-state. The Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (DCAA) was in fact funded on 8th March 2008 under the direction of His Highness Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum (Chairman), His Eminence Dr. Omar bin Sulaiman (Managing Director), eleven Directors and a Vice Chairman.
The DCAA vision was defined as ‘to position Dubai as a vibrant, Arabian global city that shapes culture and arts in the region and the world’ while its mission ‘to actively support and drive Dubai’s development as a dynamic culture, heritage and arts centre by creating an environment that facilitates and inspires cultural activity’.
In March 2009 the Authority was subsequently re-organized, re-branded and re-positioned as Dubai Culture (DC) to be at the same pace as the ‘changing demands of our times’ as affirmed by HE Dr. Omar Bin Sulaiman and coinciding with the transfer of all heritage sites under the umbrella Dubai Culture.

4. Arts Patronage Recognition: Patrons of the Arts Awards 2010

On 5th December 2009 Dubai Culture announced the launch of the first edition of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum “Patrons of the Arts Awards 2010”, first-ever initiative as such in the Arab world, to ‘honour path-breaking arts patronage’ through financial or in-kind contribution of individuals, organizations, businesses and government institutions to either Dubai based artists, cultural projects, organizations and institutions operating in the visual arts, performing arts, literature, poetry and films sectors.

The categories proposed were four and organised as: Distinguished Patrons of the Arts, set for a contribution over AED 5 million; Patrons of the Arts, in between AED 2 and 5 million; Supporters of the Arts, in between AED 500,000 and 2 million; and finally Friends of the Arts, in between AED 50,000 and 500,000.
Moreover, the contributions made had to be spent in Dubai or provided to a Dubai affiliated project and made in between the 1st January 2007 – 31st December 2009 and all the projects sponsored also had to have a clear and direct impact on the creative sector development in Dubai.
By honouring these patrons, the Sheikh wanted to recognise and encourage more and more individuals to step forward and invest into the long-term value of supporting the arts sector but also to promote development initiatives in Dubai through a unique public-private partnership model where patrons are the very foundation of the arts community.
Coherently with the strategy outlined in the Strategic Plan, the four main aims of the Award were set as:
•    to stimulate the cultural sector of the region;
•    to catalyse the development of various art disciplines;
•    to strengthen the arts infrastructure;
•    to contribute in developing Dubai as centre for content creation in the arts.
As also affirmed by Mishaal Al Gergawi, Project & Events Manager of Dubai Culture ‘Dubai has a legacy as a place where people come to produce, whether it is a business, or media or the arts. The [Dubai] government does not get as involved [in the arts] as other emirates do. The art scene is clearly dependent on patrons’.
As a confirmation of the relevance of the art patronage issue in Dubai, the Sheikh’s initiative obtained for its first edition a massive success with a total amount of 59 applicants which contributed for more than AED 220 million to the Dubai’s cultural scene and comprehended a vast array of sectors such as government, banking, telecommunications, hospitality, retail, cultural institutions and real estate companies. A full listing of applicants is provided in Appendix.

One Final Reflection

As final reflection, I’d like to get reconnected to the initial quote of this article by putting forward again the speech held on 5th January by Mishaal Al Gergawi and which represents a word to the wise that fully takes into account the role played by “art patronage” in our history from yesterday until today in the framework of ‘an evolution of humanity’.
A universal speech where the word Dubai can be rubbed off for a second and easily replaced with either Rome or New York and where the speaker Al Gergawi can be boldly replaced by either Octavian or Rockefeller: ‘Patronage is the catalyst that drives the growth of the arts. Art continues to thrive under the generous support of like-minded people, who understand and appreciate the importance of providing a sounding board for creative individuals to flourish. […] Today, Dubai’s internationally recognised art scene owes much to their visionary patronage. […] The role patrons play in the development of the arts is not only paramount to the development of the cultural scene, but is also a sign of social awareness of an integrated civil society where members of the community support, communicate and react to creative thought. This is the city Dubai aims to be and this is why patrons are crucial for us all’.
Mishaal Al Gergawi, Project & Events Manager of Dubai Culture

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Friends of the Arts (AED 50,000 – 500,000)
2.    Airbus Middle East
3.    Alliance Francaise de Dubai
4.    ANC Holdings
6.    AXA Insurance
7.    Bank of Sharjah
8.    Crowne Plaza
9.    Dubai Community Theatre & Arts Centre (DUCTAC)
10.    D-Seven (D7)
11.    Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF)
12.    EFG Hermes
13.    Ernst & Young (E&Y)
14.    Fugro Middle East
15.    Goldman Sachs
16.    Gulf Scientific Corporation
17.    Hepworth and Corys
18.    INMA
19.    The Kanoo Group
20.    Louis Vuitton
21.    Michelin
22.    Morgan Stanley
23.    Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PWC)
24.    Qatar Foundation
25.    Ras Al Khaimah Bank (RAKBANK)
26.    Rolls-Royce International
27.    Sultan Group Investment
28.    ZED Communications
29.    Ms. Noora Al Warshow
30.    Mr. Abdul Ghaffar Hussain
31.    Mr. & Mrs. Zickerman
32.    Mr. Philipp Maier

Supporters of the Arts (AED 500,000 – 2 million)
1.    Chalhoub Group
2.    Credit Suisse
3.    Deutsche Bank
4.    Deyaar Properties
5.    Emirates NBD
6.    HSBC Bank Middle East
7.    Nokia Corporation
8.    Meem Gallery
9.    Mrs. Moaza Al Falasi
10.    Mrs. Al Anoud Al Warshow
11.    Dr. Lamees Hamdan
12.    Mr. Ramin Salsali

Patrons of the Arts (AED 2 – 5 million)

1.    Her Highness Sheikha Manal Bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum
2.    Her Highness Sheikha Latifa Bint Maktoum
3.    Sheikh Sultan Saud Al Qassimi
4.    Bank Sarasin-Alpen & Alpen Capital
5.    Du
6.    Emirates Foundation
7.    Ismaili Centre Dubai
8.    Jumeirah
9.    Van Cleef & Arpels

Distinguished Patrons of the Arts (>AED 5 million)
1.    Emirates Airlines
2.    Dubai Media Incorporated (DMI)
3.    Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC)
4.    Abraaj Capital
5.    Dubai Pearl
6.    Majed Al Futtaim Group
7.    Dr. Farhad Farjam

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