Culture Incorporated: Museums, Artists, and Corporate Sponsorships

By Mark W. Rectanus | Go to book overview

2. Corporate Cultural Politics:
Corporate Identity and Culture

On the day the Berlin Wall fell, we decided to send a film crew to the scene immediately.… Our
immediate concern was that something important was happening that would have a direct and
immediate impact on millions of lives, and that would directly influence millions of others around
the world in a positive way. We knew there would be value in that linkage for Pepsi.… We made
a commercial that celebrated the moment and closed with the words “Peace on Earth,” joined
tastefully to a small Pepsi-Cola logo. A big event, and Pepsi was proud to be a small part of it.

—Alan Pottasch, in Lifestyle and Event Marketing

During the 1990s, mapping the terrain of cultural politics in the United States and Germany was not only a matter of registering the ongoing financial and identity crises (while developing survival strategies) but also a process of renegotiating the institutional roles of cultural producers, brokers, and audiences. Although politicians in Germany and the United States became even more aware of the potential power of culture as a two-edged sword of identity promotion (e.g., Pepsi's “current-event marketing”) and representational politics (e.g., NEA controversies in the United States; Christo's Wrapped Reichstag in Germany), they continued to reduce funding for culture. Meanwhile, nonprofit organizations such as the Guggenheim and Getty foundations assumed more-visible and more-influential positions through their extensive acquisition and building projects (e.g., the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (GMB), Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin, or the Getty Center in Los Angeles), transforming themselves into truly global enterprises with their own “brands” of cultural politics and image promotion.

In Germany, where many corporations are still controlled by private or family interests, new cultural foundations are emerging as major beneficiaries of these private fortunes and will be significant participants in shaping postunification cultural politics in the twenty-first century.1 In the United States, the gaps left by budget cuts and new demands for cultural programming in the 1980s and 1990s were at least partially filled by foundations, individual donors, and corporate sponsors, as well as by many museums and performing arts centers, which transformed themselves into semicommercial

-22-

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