The impact of culture through corporate patronage
Long before the debate on the “crisis in contemporary art” began, the philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis, one of the 20th century’s most innovative thinkers, considered the meaning and future of the artistic creation. What emerged from this reflection was a very lucid and rational analysis and a decidedly alarming diagnosis: contemplating the collapse of creativity at the same time implied that there had been a better time beforehand and the fear that worse was to come.
In his Window on the chaos. Essays on art and society, the author ruminates long and hard on the relations between artistic creation, democratic society and the enigma of the art work, and also contemplates the paradoxical relationship between the creator and society.
The art work, indeed, should be understood within the framework of the relationship that the subject has with the object, and so in the relationship that the artist has with the work and with the public: “For human beings, Chaos is generally obscured by the social establishment and everyday existence. So, an initial way of tackling the question of great art would consist of saying that, while it gives form to Chaos, it also reveals it and, at the same time, thanks to that form, creates a Cosmos” writes Castoriadis.
The potency of art lies therefore in opening up new perspectives, its contribution is that of investigating the Cosmos, that is, the Contemporary, by deploying revolutionary and original instruments. Art inspires new visions and tirelessly puts proven rules and shared standards to the test, contradicting itself, opposing itself and generating new paradigms.
Art and culture serve the city, the people, society and business. If culture has this strong value and this responsibility, then it is the “place” where investment should be made. Often, investing in art, by its very nature a symbol of experimentation, is also a form of research and innovation and, in its most sophisticated forms, of patronage: it influences the creation of the cultural fabric and the construction of new languages and markets.
Fortunately, this idea is increasing gaining ground and general agreement, both among individuals and businesses. According to the Rsm-Makno survey “Investing in culture” conducted by Impresa Cultura Italia — Confcommercio, the interest of businesses in culture is growing exponentially as a lever of marketing and corporate reputation.
More than 70% of entrepreneurs view support for cultural projects and events in a positive light: 51% consider it strategic in the long term and so incorporate it in their marketing strategies, 23% are working to achieve the same objective. Moreover, 36% of businesses have started to invest in culture again in the last three years after the marked slowdown that characterised the first half of the decade as a result of the crisis, while only 9% have stopped doing so.
Most investors make an economic contribution, others offer services or expertise, but the most common form remains sponsorship and the joint staging of events. The benefits derived from investment in culture for a business are wide-ranging: from a boost for the image to the marketing strategy, it is estimated that, for 33% of businesses, investment in culture is, above all, linked to the corporate reputation and the establishment of the brand, and contributes to the improvement of dealings with the client at the commercial level.
It remains true that, given the same level of outlay, investment by businesses in culture produces an equivalent return to the traditional activities of advertising and marketing communication, while for 10% of these, the return is actually greater.
In investigating the relationship between art and business, there are therefore various points of connection and many ways of developing a profound relationship that can be generated among them.
Culture is an essential part of business, it is the foundation of every organisation: a new form of patronage, which takes this idea forward, which contributes to reinforcing it more and more, should therefore be interpreted as a kind of new Renaissance, where investing in art is a form of research and innovation.
By raising the awareness of businesses — increasingly dubious about the usefulness of old communication tools — regarding their role in supporting the community, financial resources can be allocated to the historical and cultural heritage. This can be a way of gaining corporate visibility, reinforcing their brands and communicating in a less intrusive way with stakeholders (consumers, politicians and the media) and building relations with the territories. All of this while, at the same time, obtaining tax relief.
While in the United States more than 50% of resources are collected through private sponsorship, in Italy the situation is different. Unfortunately, in the World Cities Culture Finance report, the first global study on the investments of cities in culture, Italy was still far behind and only in 2014 introduced the Art Bonus: tax incentives in favour of cultural patronage that ensure a tax credit of 65% on the amount donated in support of the public cultural heritage and the promise of participating in the protection and enhancement of the country’s identity.
With these preconditions, in just three years of operation, the Art Bonus has changed the way Italians participate in culture, involving around 6,400 patrons for a total value of donations of more than 200 million euros. This is clear evidence of the fact that the advantages from the relationship between art and business exceed all previous expectations and that investing in culture is currently one of the most far-seeing actions possible.
A further innovation is underway that is leading to a kind of “patronage version 4.0”, far from the canonical dualism of donation as a one-way channel that connects the patron with the object of their investment. The connection between different realities creates advantages in terms of virtuous and multidirectional partnerships from which all the participating organisations draw benefits.