Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Easy as

Funny how when it comes to money we so often use food metaphors or (as in the case of ‘tighten your belts’) the lack of it. The NZ government is right into eat-me metaphors in its recently released report on philanthropy for the arts. Reaching for its inner baker they pulled out that fine old pastry-based cliche, ‘Growing the pie’. 

In its set-up the report reaches far back to the European Renaissance when painters were, “supported by wealthy individuals and rulers of states – both secular and religious.” They might have also added: and largely unencumbered by tax. 

Their solution is the conventional one: the rich need to pay more. It must be galling to those rich people who already generously support the arts to be simply exhorted to row harder. Maybe the roles in the philanthropy plan needs to be fleshed out further although it is simple enough for most of us: we crowdsource our philanthropy via ticket prices and entry fees. 

In the United States there is a long history of extraordinary private philanthropy - probably something to do with it being the richest country in the world. Over the last few years visitors to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art have seen not one but two large buildings gifted and named by major collectors. 

The latest of these (the Broad Museum of Contemporary Art is the other) is a new ‘pavilion’ care of Lynda and Stewart Resnick. A photograph of this couple - like the Broads - is displayed at the entrance to their pavilion alongside a list of the products that made their philanthropic gesture possible. Pom Wonderful, Fiji Water, Wonderful Pistachios and Cuties. Food and flowers, proudly growing the pie.