Culture Incorporated: Museums, Artists, and Corporate Sponsorships

By Mark W. Rectanus | Go to book overview

1. Full Disclosure

It takes art to make a company great.
There's an art to helping those in need.

—Philip Morris Companies Inc.

“Imagine using the power of the arts to help feed the hungry.” This is the “modest proposal” made by Philip Morris in its campaign “Arts against Hunger: A Global Initiative …,” which offered discounted tickets to arts events in return for donations to food drives. This “global initiative” was undoubtedly only one component of yet another public-relations strategy designed to repair the corporation's image after successive losses in tobacco litigation during the late 1990s.1 More important, however, the advertisement focuses our attention on three key dimensions of corporate cultural politics: corporate sponsorship of cultural programs; social sponsorships and “corporate philanthropy”; and the globalization of corporate cultural politics as practiced by multinational and transnational corporations.

As the advertisement suggests, sponsorships are now embedded in many facets of contemporary culture: cultural programs (from historic restorations to rock concerts), social sponsorships (of education, health, and environmental programs), or sports sponsorships. The borders between the social, cultural, and political, which sponsoring ostensibly maintains, dissolve in the practice of corporate cultural politics. This is underscored by the shift from separate programming for cultural and social sponsorships to new programs that integrate cultural and social projects, both locally, in the communities where corporations maintain their operations, and globally, in their promotion of products and images. Corporate cultural politics attempt to legitimize corporate interests in globalized societies—in cultural, social, economic, and political spheres—but in doing so they also expose their stake in institutional and communal discourses and values.

Not only has the corporation become accepted as a legitimate, institutionalized participant in the cultural marketplace, but corporate cultural politics also define and shape culture. Associating cultural sponsorship exclusively with “high culture” or

-3-

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