Research Study, Installation
New York, USA
C-Lab, New York
Cultural philanthropy is an expansive field that offers many distinct conceptions of what constitutes ‘culture’ and what purposes it serves. Culture can be a form of enlightenment, entertainment, politics, and even a weapon. The diverse forms of cultural donations reveal a multitude of conceptions about its value and purposes.
Donor Hall at the New Museum provides a picture of global giving, and raises the question of who are the constituencies of cultural philanthropy and what are the specific relations that are constructed between cultural givers and the audiences that they benefit. Using publicly available information about contributions to arts and culture around the world, drawn from sources such as tax filings, corporate annual reports, newspapers and research papers, Donor Hall indicates the contours of global generosity.
The installation arranges organizations and individual donors into categories ranging from national governments to private foundations, media conglomerates to populist movements. The categories do not suggest that a common ideological position is advanced or that the givers share a motive for cultural investment, but rather they allow the viewer to read and interpret the various modes of giving that the donors practice. The categories provide a cross-section of global philanthropy and the many forms that it takes, grouping the givers as broadly as possible by the areas of cultural, political, and/or economic activity in which they operate. Despite their different missions, what unites these groups is an evident belief in the value and power of culture and a desire to use their resources for its support.
The categories of donors are arranged as pie charts and overlaid onto large-scale photographs of actual pies and other foods, a whimsical gesture or parody of the ruthlessness of statistical representations. The entire surface consists of a ‘micro-text’ of quotes from world literature, providing a wide range of commentary on gifts and generosity. A menagerie of cartoon animals, symbolizing prosperity and good fortune in various cultural traditions, frolics among the food and data.
Jeffrey Inaba, Benedict Clouette, Yi-han Cao, Jesse Seeger, Andrew Shimomura