The Patrons of the Message
AT THE Barbican, the arts centre created by gifts from the City of London, the film producer David Puttnam gave a remarkable lecture for the Financial Times on the new powers of patronage that have resulted from the revolutionary technology of communications. He himself had been paid off before completing a programme of films for Columbia Pictures, then owned by Coca-Cola; it made him most qualified to pronounce on the new media conglomerates. He spoke first of an art critic finding in the cellars of the Hermitage Palace, taken from the Tsars of Russia, a huge treasure trove of modern Russian paintings, banned from display after the Stalin era -- early Chagall and Malevich, Kandinsky and Rodchenko. 'What an appalling commentary on the whims, caprice and terror of patronage,' Puttnam said. 'A cultural dungeon, in a city itself created by patronage.'
Puttnam wanted to consider the contemporary role of patronage, how it shaped the work of artists and communicators. Who were the great patrons of today?
In most instances they are the media empires and the multinational corporations. Every major film studio, every television network and -- increasingly today -- many of the major book publishers fall under this financial system. This must be qualified, and in part explained, by a sense of scale. Cinema, television, architecture, newspaper publishing, commercial theatre and much of today's literature are costly undertakings. More and more they fall only within the financial means of global baronies. Minnows can survive at the fringes, but the mainstream of