Arts and business news from around the country.


The Next Iconic Partnerships?

Posted by Jonathan Tuchner

If you visit Tate Modern during the next few days, go down the ramp and turn right into The Tanks. On the opposite wall you will find images and notes celebrating thirteen years of the Unilever Series at the Turbine Hall.


It is a quiet celebration; a gentle place to reflect on what has arguably been the most significant arts and business partnership over the past decade or so. Many will forever recall the glow of Ólafur Elíasson’s The Weather Project, the thrill of Test Site by Carsten Höller, or the structure of Rachel Whiteread’s 2005 Embankment. Unilever’s money made all this happen.


Tino Sehgal’s These Association is the final work in the Unilever-sponsored series, which has attracted almost 30 million visitors over the past dozen years. Unilever says “It was planning a change of direction in its sponsorship programme, which is more focused on sustainability and the environment.” Where does that leave the arts?


Between 2000 and 2012, Unilever provided £4.4 million sponsorship in total, including a renewal deal of £2.2 million for a period of five years which was agreed in 2008. This is big money for arts partnerships and it created huge public interest and media profile for Unilever.


Unilever has had a long and important relationship with the arts over many years. This has ranged from the creation of the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight through to in-house amateur dramatics in the 1960s and an astonishing programme called Catalyst which ran over much of the last decade using the arts to inspire and engage their staff.


Their relationship with Tate began when Niall Ferguson was in charge and I recall him early on saying it was his passion for art that drove the investment. Clearly there was passion but what was the business case?


The rationale seemed to revolve more on the important task of promoting and supporting the Unilever group name rather than the individual brands that they make.  Then again, could, or should, (or even would) a publicly funded gallery promote the many individual brands that make up the portfolio of a consumer goods company who sponsors them?


Does it look strange if a gallery is happy to sell a copy of Andy Warhol’s print of a Campbell’s Soup Can in their shop but refuse to sell the soup itself in their cafe?


The end of the Unilever series follows fairly hot on the heels of the end of the Orange Prize for Fiction. Following the London Olympics, will 2012 be remembered as the year sport became essential to our lives and the public’s belief in the arts fell away?


As we lose two of the best known, most widely celebrated arts and business partnership—is there a wider significance to these business decisions? More importantly who can pick up the mantle, and become our next high profile partners of the arts?


New kids on the block 


We feel cautiously optimistic. There are always new players coming to the fore, be they locally or nationally.  We recently saw the first in the Ignition Series created by Sky Arts. Sky Arts Ignition: Doug Aitken – The Source is a fast moving portrait of modern creativity housed on Liverpool’s historic Albert Dock in a structure designed by Aitken in collaboration with British architect David Adjaye OBE.


The commission forms part of the seventh Liverpool Biennial, and will be Aitken’s first public realm installation in the UK, showcasing his ambitious approach to contemporary art.


James Hunt, director of Sky Arts says, “Sky Arts Ignition Series is not just about the creation of artwork, it is about collaboration and shared experiences with astounding artists like Doug Aitken and great institutions such as Tate Liverpool.”


There is more good news—Travelex’s partnership with the National Theatre going from strength to strength, the RSC announcing record profits, Bloomberg’s work with contemporary dance and new art.


When Arts & Business was founded over thirty years ago the juxtaposition of the words ‘arts’ and ‘business’ felt both a necessary clarion call, and a leap of faith—proclaiming as it did that the future of both the arts, and of business, would burn more brightly if they worked closer together.


The arts simply cannot flourish without the support of business, and the relative importance of business to the arts will continue to increase in the years ahead.

Arts and commerce, culture and business, creativity and philanthropy are all inextricably linked. Moreover the stakes have never been higher. If we collectively fail to deliver on the requisite opportunities for growth, we place more of the cultural vitality of our communities at risk.


Arts & Business is about to release our full analysis of the state of private investment in the arts.  Yes, we are are at a crucial juncture, a cross-roads, call it what you will.  The Government no longer sees itself as the most “reliable funder of culture”; the economy shrinks, grass root sport is all the rage—where are the arts in all this?


As this new act unfolds in the drama of arts funding, with new players playing lead roles, we know there are opportunities for business growth.


There will always be businesses keen to snuggle up to the arts community as it gives businesses a key into its biggest commodity, namely human thought. This is a good thing.


At the same time there are too many people yet to discover the ecstasy, spirituality, sustenance and meaning art can bring to their lives.


When they started their partnerships, Unilever clearly understood this, so did Orange.  Soon, there will be other names to join their ranks in recognising how starting a partnership with the arts can bring real advantages. Business brands, and the support, know-how and passion of their people need to be at the core of all new arts activities.


*Originally posted on Arts & Business Team Blog and ARTSblog.

blog comments powered by Disqus

More News

BCA 10 Spotlight: West Bend Mutual Insurance Company (West Bend, WI)
Sep 20, 2018 0 Comments
Americans for the Arts is excited to honor West Bend Mutual Insurance at the BCA 10 Gala on October 2, 2018 in New York City. Click here to learn more about the BCA10.   “The arts can have a profound impact on people of all...
Go to full post
BCA 10 Spotlight: Fifth Third Bank (Cincinnati, OH)
Sep 17, 2018 0 Comments
Americans for the Arts is excited to honor Fifth Third Bank at the BCA 10 Gala on October 2, 2018 in New York City. Click here to learn more about the BCA 10.   “Fifth Third Bank is committed to building thriving and vibrant...
Go to full post
BCA 10 Spotlight: Phillips 66 (Houston, TX)
Sep 13, 2018 0 Comments
“As a company committed to improving lives, Phillips 66 is proud to support the arts. Our communities are enriched by the arts, precisely because art touches and changes lives in ways that are positive and profound. It’s one...
Go to full post
Quaver Music Supports Arts Education
Sep 11, 2018 0 Comments
September 9-15 is National Arts in Education Week!   Passed by Congress in 2010, House Resolution 275 designates the week beginning with the second Sunday in September as National Arts in Education Week. During this week, the...
Go to full post
BCA 10 Spotlight: The Standard (Portland, OR)
Sep 10, 2018 0 Comments
Americans for the Arts is excited to honor The Standard at the BCA 10 Gala on October 2, 2018 in New York City. Click here to learn more about the BCA10.   “Fostering an appreciation for the arts helps build a foundation for...
Go to full post
BCA Spotlight: VF Corporation (Greesnboro, NC)
Sep 06, 2018 0 Comments
Americans for the Arts is excited to honor VF Corporation at the BCA 10 Gala on October 2, 2018 in New York City. Click here to learn more about the BCA10.   “VF has a proud history of supporting the arts in the communities...
Go to full post
BCA 10 Spotlight: Fosun International Shanghai CN (New York Office)
Sep 03, 2018 0 Comments
Americans for the Arts is excited to honor Fosun at the BCA 10 Gala on October 2, 2018 in New York City. Click here to learn more about the BCA10.   “Fosun has been a champion of the arts for many years, both domestically in...
Go to full post
BCA 10 Spotlight: Zions Bank (Salt Lake City, UT)
Aug 30, 2018 0 Comments
Americans for the Arts is excited to honor Zions Bank at the BCA 10 Gala on October 2, 2018 in New York City. Click here to learn more about the BCA10.   “There are many similarities between the arts and business.  Both push...
Go to full post
BCA 10 Spotlight: Tierney (Philadelphia, PA)
Aug 27, 2018 0 Comments
Americans for the Arts is excited to honor Tierney at the BCA 10 Gala on October 2, 2018 in New York City. Click here to learn more about the BCA10.   “Art is at the heart of everything we do and it inspires our creativity...
Go to full post
BCA 10 Spotlight: Churchill Downs (Louisville, KY)
Aug 23, 2018 0 Comments
Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99;...
Go to full post
On the "Streets of Bakersfield," Buses are Works of Art
Aug 16, 2018 0 Comments
Golden Empire Transit (GET), based in Bakersfield, CA, has been serving city for over forty years. As the mass transit operator in town, they play an integral role in the city’s infrastructure and economy, and have used this...
Go to full post
Oath Foundation and Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund
Aug 08, 2018 0 Comments
Oath Foundation, funded by Oath, is partnering with Tribeca Film Institute to support documentaries focused on social issues. In collaboration with the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund, they provide documentaries in post-production...
Go to full post
PNC Keeping Arts Alive in its Communities
Aug 03, 2018 0 Comments
BCA 10 Honoree PNC continues to use the arts to bring its communities together. Through PNC Arts Alive, the company’s foundation is supporting access to arts experiences through affordable pricing, mobile studios, sensory friendly...
Go to full post
Seattle Boasts Shepard Fairey Mural at 9th and Thomas
Jul 30, 2018 0 Comments
When Scott Redman, CEO of Sellen Construction, was in the process of developing his first building, of the many the company has built, he wanted the arts to play an integral role. In an interview with The Seattle Times, he said...
Go to full post

Already a partner?

Already a partner?

Learn easy ways to take your partnership to a new level.

Use our ads locally

Use our ads locally

View The pARTnership Movement ad campaign and find ways to use the ads.

pARTnership videos

pARTnership videos

Watch and share our videos from The pARTnership Movement.

Partnership ideas

Partnership ideas

Inspire employees with tickets to the ballet or a concert.

Are you an arts group?

Are you an arts group?

Get listed in our searchable directory.

Recruit talent

Recruit talent

Employees want to live and work in a vibrant community.