Art and patronage: from the private collection to public heritage, and the legal aspects that make it possible

At the end of October the exhibition “Picasso ceramics. Jacqueline’s gift to Barcelona” was presented, an exhibition that commemorates the 30th anniversary of the donation of 41 ceramic pieces from her private collection that Jacqueline gave to the Museu Picasso, Barcelona.

Postcard of the ceramics exhibition

Postcard of the ceramics exhibition

While speaking of the possible activities to be carried out within the framework of the exhibition, a reflection was made about how the major part of the collection of the museum comes from private donations, and how this generosity from the private world had given rise to, and allowed, the creation of the public heritage that the museum takes care of.  In that moment there appeared very encouraging news in the press about the work of a commission on a new proposal for the law of patronage, news that the world of culture received with enthusiasm, as an incentive for the private world to contribute goods or possessions to the public institutions.

Therefore, with the discussion based around these two questions: how private collections can become public, and what legal frameworks can foster these and other acts of patronage, the possibility was put forward of holding a seminar to deal with these aspects.

Right from the outset, we sought the complicity and collaboration from the Fundación Francisco Godia that, at a level of Catalonia, has led the recognition of both national and international collectors and collecting, and has promoted a close relation between the public and private fields.  And with their good work and knowledge of the cause, three sessions were defined that would cover varied but interrelated aspects:

Session of 15/11/12 | Private Collecting and patronage

The aim of this session was to explain how current collectors consider the possibility that the collection ends up being public heritage.  Is this a decisive concept when taking decisions about the creation of a collection?

This session, moderated by Lluís Peñuelas, counted with the participation of Sara Puig, Carlos Urroz and Josep Maria Civit.

Sara Puig highlighted the task carried out by the Fundación Godia in terms of organising and making collecting known, underlining its value and at the same time giving it the social recognition it deserves.

Carlos Urroz used two very different cases of current collecting, that of the private collection that becomes public, and that of a corporate collection that is born with athe aim of becoming public, to illustrate approaches and challenges related to this transfer of goods or possessions.

Josep Maria Civit offered, with energy and at the same time a passion for contemporary art, a clear vision of the reasons behind the construction of his collection, but also the difficulties and dilemmas faced by current collecting, and unveiled first hand information of his plan to open a transdisciplinary cultural center in Figueras by 2014.

Attendees and speakers at the first session of the seminar

Attendees and speakers at the first session of the seminar

Session of 22/11/12 | Private collections as the origins of cultural heritage

By means of the analysis of referential cases, the topics dealt with in the previous session were looked at in greater depth, exploring more specifically the conditions that foster donations, both from the legal and social point of view. In their role as patrons of art, what do collectors expect of the public institutions? And of society in general?

Moderated by Bonaventura Bassegoda, interventions were given by Helena Cambó, Mark Bessire and Harold Berg.

In her contribution, Helena Cambó made evident not only the relevance nowadays of the donation of Cambó in terms of the construction of Catalan heritage, but also the universality and current validity of the principles that guided the task of her father and her own.

Mark Bessire, for his part, spoke about the origins of the institution that he directs, founded by artists with a long tradition of private donations. In a communication that we will shortly be publishing in the blog, Bessire explained what patrons look for nowadays and how the institution, by means of transparency, can offer them this relation of collaboration.

Harold Berg also spoke about a successful relation between the collector and the museum, and in his case the deposit of works in the MACBA.  As well as transmitting commitment, he reflected on how to carry out a joint and mutually enriching work between both sectors – the public and the private.

Helena Cambó and Mark Bessire during the sessionHarold Berg during the session

Helena Cambó, Mark Bessire and Harold Berg during the session

Session of 29/11/12 | The law of patronage and other measures that promote the creation of cultural heritage

In the final session, the legal topics and formulas for fostering patronage were dealt with, with special emphasis being given to the state of the new law of patronage, what changes need to be made and what inter-ministerial complicities need to be worked on, even though the question ended up being quite another: is a new law of patronage being elaborated currently?

Eva Moraga was moderator of a roundtable with lots of inputs and some last minute changes: Josep Pagès attended on behalf of Montserrat Surroca, Faustino Díaz, Mercedes Basso and Josep Maria Coronas, on behalf of Marta Casas.

Josep Pagès highlighted the proposals made by the parliamentary group that represents questions related to the revision of the current law, underlining the fact that on the one hand the current figures for patronage are very small, and on the other hand the fact that, within a European framework, we should be looking at the French model as a benchmark.

Faustino Díaz pointed out the need to develop an inter-ministerial work so as to carry out a really valid reformulation of the law, even though he highlighted the fact that the current one is particularly favorable to the foundations.

Mercedes Basso made an overview of the aims of the Fundación Arte y Mecenazgo and its objectives: to recognise the role of the patrons, to boost private participation and to promote structural changes so as to foster patronage, and of the task of collecting information and the creation of relevant and comparative reports about the sector that it has developed, which makes it evident that the current Spanish law includes all the negative aspects of the European legislations, and none of the positive ones.

Josep Maria Coronas contributed a touch of irony so as to demystify and to point out the pitfalls that exist when putting the legal measures for patronage into practice (such as the case, as he gave as an example, of the donation of a work as a payment of taxes made by Abertis) that, even though they been foreseen and legislated for, for many years, they do not count on the real support of the administrations, either due to lack of internal coordination or the will to execute them.

Eva Moraga, Josep Pagès, Faustino Díaz, Mercedes Basso and Josep Maria Corones during the session

Eva Moraga, Josep Pagès, Faustino Díaz, Mercedes Basso and Josep Maria Corones during the session

These sessions allowed us to explore these topics and to see some of the pending questions and possible tasks to be carried out in the future.  For those who are interested in consulting them, you can see them in the library of the Museu Picasso (you need to ask for a prior appointment).

Anna Guarro
Public Programmes

Related links
Manual Práctico para la búsqueda de patrocinio

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