Cultural Branding at the Guggenheim

Last week, Richard Armstrong, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum, announced that Samsung will be funding a position as part of the museum’s Asian Art Program.

Alexandra Munroe has held the position of “Senior Curator of Asian Art” since 2006, and will now hold the position of “Samsung Curator of Asian Art.”

The Samsung Foundation of Culture has helped to sponsor Korean art since 1965. A partnership with the Guggenheim seems apt, as both institutions are interested in promoting Asian art in a global context. More importantly, the Guggenheim gets much needed funds, and Samsung gets a more glamorous image.

Corporate sponsorship is important to the survival of many cultural institutions. For a further example, see the Whitney Museum’s corporate sponsorship web page. However, a museum’s artistic vision and integrity should not be compromised by corporate control. Should the existence of a paid position at a museum rest in the hands of a corporate sponsor?

On October 25, at the New York Times Arts Forum, corporate sponsors and cultural organizations met to discuss the significance of “Cultural Branding“. Glyn Northington, Senior Manager of Community Relations for Target, was one of the speakers on the panel. Target sponsors “Target first Saturdays” at the Brooklyn Museum and “Target Free Sundays” at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Andrew Hamingson, Executive Director of The Public Theater, discussed how significant Bank of America has been in making Shakespeare in the Park possible.

Arthur Cohen described cultural branding as a kind of “Equity Exchange”. He quoted Katherine Hepburn, who once said of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers that, “she gave him sex and he gave her class.”

Read Judith H. Dobrzynski’s reaction to the Guggenheim move here.

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