Arts philanthropy

During the Renaissance in Italy, the fabulous wealth of the Medicis funded the work of talent like Botticelli, da Vinci, Shakespeare and others. Many of history’s most famous artists received generous state and private patronage to practice and publish their work. Shakespeare and his theatre company counted Queen Elizabeth and King James I as royal patrons. The financial and social consequence of this recognition helped Shakespeare write and stage some of his best work.

Is there less arts patronage in the modern world? When it comes to arts philanthropy, an underfunded business the world over, this might certainly be the case. What’s more, the principle of first among equals applies within the arts sector too. Performing arts (forms of dance, music, and theatre) receive more funding than visual arts (painters, sculptors, graphic designers).

With Indian industry taking its place on the global stage, could the era of Indian corporate patronage of the arts be far behind? We profile a few business houses who have extended their support to this sector.

  • Zee Entertainment/Essel Group: Essel Group company Zee Entertainment was the title sponsor of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) this year. JLF was incubated by the Jaipur Virasat Foundation, a non-profit that works with traditional artists and art forms in Rajasthan. JLF is now recognised as the largest free literary festival in the world, with approximately 2.25 lakh people attending in 2015. Jaipur Literature Festival Director Sanjoy Roy stated that JLF had a budget of Rs8 crore in 2015.
  • The Mahindra Group: The Mahindra Group has been building itself a name in the arts space over the past few years. With initiatives in theatre, film and music, they have a more diverse portfolio than the rest. The group has been funding the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META), an unusual but much needed form of sponsorship for theatre professionals since 2005. They’ve also been sponsors of The Kabir Festival, a festival of musicians and performers who are popularising poetry as written by the 14th century icon. They had a three-year collaboration with the international Sundance Institute that recognised emerging filmmakers. If that wasn’t enough, they also organise The Mahindra Blues Festival, dedicated to the blues a music festival dedicated to the
  • The Aditya Birla Group: It’s been said that theatre is the only art form that has been dying for the past 2,000 years but is still not dead. Aditya Birla Group’s Aadhyam initiative has taken it upon itself to revive a culture of theatregoing as its objective this year. In 2015, Aadhyam commissioned five Mumbai-based theatre groups to produce plays for their brand as its first offering. The organisation then took on the responsibility of staging 50 shows at premium venues in Mumbai and Delhi, giving people a full-blown theatre experience. Aadhyam has stated that it may choose to support other forms of performing arts in the future.

One thought on “Arts philanthropy

  • June 30, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    Another reason why corporates stay away from philanthropic funding of art, is the CSR advocacy and the resultant law in the Company Act 2013, does not give any direct credence to art. The fact remains that Art is a strong medium of communication, not just the social realities, the cultural richness, but also in the process of communicating Brands.
    The realism and social consciousness of today calls upon us to bridge the existing divides and perhaps art is the perfect vehicle and companies should rise up to assume this responsible role, through responsive actions more than doing the CSR obligation, because the law of the land demands…..


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