History And Future Of Funding In The Art World
During the middle ages, well hundreds of years ago, the dynamics between an artist and the patrons was quite different from where it stands today. The origin of the word patron lies in the latin word patronus, which literally translates as father or the master. This word patronus is in fact quite an accurate signifier of what the patrons of the art were like, and the position they enjoyed in the artistic arena in the times leading up till the Renaissance period.
The royals, nobles, and those of immense wealth were known to pay artists a living wage even as they created masterpieces commissioned by the patrons. Today the artists and the creators of stunning masterpieces are often held in great regard for their imagination, innovation, and creativity; in the past, however, they were treated as a mere skilled labor following the creative instructions of someone with extreme wealth, vision, and status in the society.
Today when we talk about the beauty of the ceiling at Sistine Chapel, we immediately credit Michelangelo with it without batting an eyelid and most of us do not recognize the name Pope Julius II or “The Warrior Pope”. It was actually him who commissioned the artist to bring alive the grandiose of these biblical scenes on the ceiling. Michelangelo, himself was hesitant and skeptical about straying from his specialty that was sculpting, but on insistence and pressure from the Pope, he gave in at last. It was The Warrior Pope who shaped up the culturally rich city that Rome stands to be today by commissioning numerous such stellar masterpieces like the famed reconstruction of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Progressively the general population became more curious about the world they were a part of and towards the latter half of the Renaissance period artists and creators like Michelangelo gained a respectable status in the society and helped define the image of an artist responsible for creative thinking, independent work, and a pool of original ideas with a capability of bringing them to life. They, however, were still at least a few hundred years away from making a decent living pursuing this.
It was somewhere between the Renaissance and the web revolution when this environment further changed and the patronage model of those times gently shifted to a predominantly publicly supported structure. This is when anyone, not necessarily the immensely affluent could venture and explore the world of art and support it in cultural centers like museums, galleries, theatres and more. This system enabled the artists to create elegant works of their own choosing and thought and more than willing audience and buyers would line up, pay the money to have a piece of it.
This new environment resulted in further institutionalization of art and in an endeavor to make quick money a dubious subclass of middlemen squeezed themselves in between the artists and the patrons. Creating an opportunity to maximize and cut a share for themselves in the wealth that a creator may procure from their creations a new breed of agents, publicists, record labels, publishing companies, producers and movie studios stepped in to manage the business aspect of these artists.
In order to do away with this system of entrepreneurial middlemen who were cashing in on the talent of the artists by wedging a gap between them and the patrons, the artist community was looking for a system or a platform for communities of supporters to come forward and help them flourish.
It was in 1990 that the World Wide Web was created and it was under its influence that reception of art transformed completely. The advent of internet opened a horde of windows and doors of opportunity to which we all flocked as a fabulously convenient way to communicate to others opened up.
It was only a matter of years before the artists were able to create a self-sustaining model of creative entrepreneurship enabling themselves to connect directly to the market and deliver to the consumer directly.
Theoretically, it all seemed to be a dream come true situation for the artists, however the ease of the system and access resulted in any and every one assuming the role of an artist thus bringing the collective value of the whole group down. The numerous channels of service make different forms of art available to us at a nominal subscription fee, resulting in a general degradation in value of these creations, which were once unattainable, or considerably expensive to say the least.
In the modern world, the life of a creator is neither easy nor cheap. The artists create pieces with great effort and there is a substantial cost attached to it, the price tag that they attach to their work is not just a random number they fancied. The artists, like any other modern day professional need time and resources to continue to sustain a living through the profession of their choosing. It is therefore valid to question the unfair vilification of artists who attempt to make a living through their art. Is the romanticized image of a starving artist so deeply embedded in our psyche that we refuse to accept any artist who wills to make it past that image?
Fortunately, however, the future sees more control coming into the hands of the creator and an effective demolishing of the barrier that stood between the artists and their willing supporters. It is foreseen that the artists or creators of any genre would not need some big names in their sponsors kitty or over a million fans; even a modest list of 500 supporters can help them earn a decent income and live comfortably. “Making it as an artist” would lose context in future as the gaping disparity between a top notch maestro and an around the corner artist would lessen drastically.
Hundreds of years ago it was the patrons who had absolute control over the artists in every regard. In the past century, however, the proverbial tables seem to have shifted, if not turned completely with more and more power coming into the hands of the creator. It is this evolving relationship and harmony between the two that will decide the future of the funding of the art and the artists.