Art patronage is not a product of modernity. Although the emergence of non-profit organizations can be traced back to recent history, the act of philanthropic funding of the arts as a consolidated entity dates back to biblical times.
Patronage was especially crucial during the renaissance period, during which the production of art, for the most part, was funded by aristocracy, kings, popes, cardinals, and guilds. Through their sizeable contributions to the arts, patrons gained significant influence in the shaping and governance of Renaissance artistic culture. Their contributions granted them a say in the aims of the artists they funded and the collections they acquired. This patronage produced an era that is widely regarded as the most prolific and influential period in Western art historical discourse, a period that undoubtedly flourished as a result, so much so that the Renaissance period has been inextricably tied to the concept of patronage.
Since then, every era has brought its own set of principles and practices surrounding patronage. One present iteration of philanthropic funding of the arts is non-profit art foundations.
Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog, 2000 at The Brant Foundation Art Study Center in Greenwich, Connecticut. Photo courtesy of artnet.com
Art Foundations Today
Today art foundations can be broadly defined as charitable organizations dedicated to supporting the arts. For the most part, they are a form of cultural philanthropy. As actors of cultural philanthropy, many of these organizations acquire artworks that are considered to be of cultural and historical significance to the proletariat. Their aim then becomes to share works of great importance to the broader public rather than keeping them behind closed doors only to be privy to a select few elites. Art foundations are, in most cases, characterized by the following:
- A mission
- A founder or founders
- A degree of control by founders
- A board of directors
Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition The Brandt Foundation’s at New York space courtesy of brantfoundation.org
Art Foundations in Web3
Today, art foundations are still governed by central ruling bodies and given the market for influential and coveted art; this means actors whose pockets run deep, especially in the case of masterpieces— influential works of great cultural and historical significance. But, just as the shift from each epoch to the next has shown up, each era brings new ideas and outlooks that affect how this sector functions.
With Web3 proliferating into the art world, its functionality and the blockchain can revolutionize the modern-day art foundation and here’s how.
Web 3.0 enables the infrastructure of DAOs to exist via the blockchain (for more on DAOs, see our previous blog post). An art foundation structured as a decentralized autonomous organization means a new age for the art foundation. The DAO structure can enable a community of patrons to oversee and govern collections for the first time, and that is what a new generation of patronage will look like. Through Particle DAO, the particle holders become the new generation of art patrons. The power that was once only afforded to a select few will be within reach of everyone. A foundation whose control, governance and collection will be handed to its community.
A Family Affair
Looking back at the Renaissance, the legacy of the Medici family is probably the most famous legacy of art patronage that exists in western art historical discourse. The Medici family was an incredibly affluent and influential Italian banking family and political dynasty that ran the largest bank in Europe during the 15th century. Their great wealth and influence granted them immense power in shaping the course of cultural output during the Italian Renaissance. In the arts, the Medici were responsible for an enormous production and collections of paintings, sculptures, and architecture. Prominent patrons of some of the most well-known artists of all time like; Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Brunelleschi and Botticelli, to name a few.
The legacy of the Medici family demonstrates the power of artistic philanthropy in shaping culture and how power and reach can be expanded through consolidating forces. The Medici family was a community whose joint efforts and combined resources allowed them the tremendous influence they had.
Like the Medici, family foundations are still a strong vehicle for modern-day philanthropy in contemporary times. They allow for large groups with similar philanthropic interests to combine their efforts to produce a sizable impact and acquisition power. Still, they offer a way to unify goals, consolidating efforts to create a more substantial impact and reach. Foundations, in a sense, become like family heirlooms that are passed from one generation to the next.
Now through Web3 and the blockchain, we can do the same. Our foundation's goal is to bring our similar outlooks and interests in democratizing art, our power and reach expanded through our consolidated community as the new generation of art patrons. Together you, the Particle community, are the new Medici, our foundation passed on from generation to the next.
Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper, 1495–1498. The infamous painting may not have come to fruition had it not been for the Medici’s generous patronage and support for Vinci during the High Renaissance.
Leaving A Legacy
The Medici certainly left their mark on the art world, and now we will too! Art foundations have historically created a sense of permanence in individual, family, or business philanthropic efforts. They leave a legacy that future generations can continue. They unite their members behind a common cause, their force stronger together than apart.
Through Particle DAO and Particle Foundation, our collection and community will do the same. It is a collection of masterpieces that will live on past us but in a structure that will always enable it to be owned, collected, and enjoyed by the masses. A collection that will be passed on from one generation of Particle holders to the next, leaving a legacy that will democratize the arts and be a benchmark for its revolution.