Is Art Luxury?
Or: who is sponsoring who?
Summer 2007. "Open Studio" at Kunstpavillon in Munich's Old Botanical Garden. "Art is not a Luxury" says the neon sign above the Kunstpavillon's main entrance. Artists work together for one week, thinking, contemplating the question if art is a luxury - or if it is not.
Art and Luxury I: Who owns art?
In a publication on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Munich Glaspalast's completion (Kunstpavillon's precursor) Hannes König, who rebuilt the landmark destroyed during WWII, wrote the following: "In the Pavillon's continuous exhibition you can see art works of all areas: painting, graphic arts and sculpture. The free entrance allows repeated visits and aids your choice, in case you intend a purchase."
The product art becomes accessible, the offer is directed straight to the public, quite obviously in an alternative draft to the marketing chain art usually belongs to as luxury object, with astronomic auction gains etc. Luxury - by the way - is derived from the Latin word "lux" (Spanish: "Luz"), which means "light". With art being offered directly to the masses, luxury (light) moves into peoples' houses, becoming somewhat natural, a common property.
Art and Luxury II: The Producers.
Whoever thinks that offering exhibition space only (such as p. ex. In the Kunstpavillon) already counts as sponsorship to artists, is wrong - even though many are still stuck in this idea. Actually, doing exhibitions for many artists is a kind of luxury, because quite obviously the business model "exhibition" no longer serves the producers. Today it very seldom happens that an art lover spontaneously mutates to art patron through buying some art and in this way allowing the artist to work at cost or even pay for his/her living.
As a matter of fact an exhibition rather costs the producer money, time and energy, instead of being a source of income. Bottom line is that most exhibitions are mostly losing deals, which at their best can be accounted for as marketing expenses.
For us, the group artists who administrates "Kunstpavillon e. V.", (e. V. denotes a German non-profit organization) it also means that we do work, which we would get paid for in other contexts: organizational responsibility, office and administrative work (A conversation overheard by the author illustrates the scurrility of the situation: Artist A, a bit frustrated regarding sporadic selection work (choosing artists for the new program) and frequent office work: "In effect, just about anybody could do this job (meaning: a non-artist just as well)." Artist B: "Right. But nobody would do it without pay. Just we do.")
Art and Luxury III: Who sponsors who?
So, if operating Kunstpavillon does not mean sponsoring artists, but rather lays additional burdens in terms of time and finances on their shoulders, who is then being sponsored? Most probably: the general public, art-interested citizen, visitors to Kunstpavillon who enjoy access to contemporary art at free entrance.
This is very positive, and firstly is made possible though the City of Munich, which pays for the building's operating costs; then through all the artist colleagues who carry the organizational and administrative burden on a voluntary basis; above all however thanks to those artists who exhibit: they produce and finance their work without noteworthy sponsorship from third parties and are willing to show it at their own cost to an interested public.
When speaking about art sponsorship, one commonly thinks of public trusts and bountiful cultural aid. Actually it is above all the artists' personal, financial and temporary contribution, that makes art accessible to a broad public.
At this point I do not want to repeat the widely know complaint that artists are mostly working without appointment and adequate pay (which however must be seen very critically, as it continuously drives many deeper into financially tight situations). I'd rather wished for a broader social recognition for their efforts - in whichever ways.