I’ve noticed from my near constant reading about the great financiers, past and present that philanthropy and art collecting are common themes. It makes sense. Those are good ways to spend your time at the top of Maslow’s Triangle. Frick and Morgan and Getty and Guggenheim all amassed great collections and bequeathed those beautiful works for public consumption, along with monies to house and maintain them. Great feats of art collecting and philanthropy that have ensured the benefactors’ place in our collective esteem for the foreseeable forever. Andrew Mellon took it a step further. He founded, funded our National Gallery of Art, with private money – his own. He even bought the land, paid for the construction and donated all of the art.
But there is a level of grace to be attained beyond that of Collector/Philanthropist. That is The Patron. Artists make art. Great artists make great art. Patrons make great artists possible. Patronage is personally fulfilling, even soul satisfying, but I imagine, thankless work. If you’re not The Medici and financing the Renaissance, nobody knows or cares who you are. Artists go on to be celebrated and feted and they’ll thank you (maybe) when they give their speeches and Artists’ Talks, but The Patrons are not greatly acknowledged for their participation. You can put your name on a museum, but you can’t put your name on an artist. That’s tacky. The Patrons don’t seem to care though. They do it for love and are grateful to be able to.
"Artists make art. Great artists make great art. Patrons make great artists possible."
It’s nice having one’s name on buildings and brass plaques and such, but what we really want is a legacy of having made a better version of humanity possible. Good artists do that. I’m not a good artist. Neither are you. However, artists need food, shelter, wine and art supplies. That’s where our opportunity lies.
Consider becoming a Patron of the Arts. Artists need support. An artist’s life can be a hard life. I’m not a Creative, but if I were I imagine that mundane concerns like heating, illumination, nourishment et al would be a distraction from my creative flow.
Some contemporary heroes of Art Patronage are The Clark Hulings Foundation, New Jersey collector, Ron Ollie, Director and curator, Thelma Golden, at the Studio Museum in Harlem NYC, and the amazing Joyner/Giuffridas out in California.
Clark Hulings was an American painter who wanted to enable artists to make a living from their work. He provided for such through his Estate. The fund does an amazing job of preparing artists for the entrepreneurial part of artist’s life.
Ron Ollie is my mentor and good friend and a lifetime patron of great artists. Ron did so on a more personal level. He likes to spend time with artists, many of whom became lifelong friends. They’d talk, laugh, eat, drink, and Ron would pick up the tab. He’d help his friends with expenses for travel, supplies, even rent sometimes, and they would make art. He knows that what they were doing was important and good for humanity. He wanted to be sure they were able to do it.
Thelma Golden uses her position and influence in the art world to introduce important young artists to collectors, curators and the world. It is largely through Ms Golden’s efforts and Patronage that the world knows and enjoys the genius that is Kehinde Wiley.
Mega collectors Pamela Joyner and husband, Alfred Giuffrida actually offer to house artists whose work they collect in a guest house on their property in San Francisco. It’s like a private artists’ residency program. The artists have everything they need to create without distraction, amazing vistas, good food and wonderful company not withstanding
Art Patronage can be a part of your legacy too. There’s a place for you on the continuum, somewhere between Ron Ollie and Cosimo Medici. Decide where that is and plan accordingly. Somewhere, an artist needs you, and the world needs that artist.
William S Jiggetts