If you thought this year’s theme of “Da Vinci’s Workshop” and the corresponding shift of Propaganda Minister Will Chase over to the Maker Movement meant that 2016 was going to be all about 3d printing, laser cutting, computer-controlled manufacturing, nanomaterials, and all of the exciting things going on in Silicon Valley with the built environment…think again.
So far, it seems, it’s all about money.
We’re not quite 10 weeks into the year, and already we’ve had:
How Burners are Re-Inventing the Artists Workshop (answer: “fronted by a master and funded by a relatively small group of wealthy clients”)
And now, Larry Harvey’s latest post “Following the Money: the Florentine Renaissance and Black Rock City”
Is it just me, or is there a bit of a “theme within a theme” starting to emerge here?
In the new post, Larry likens BMOrg spending $1.2 million in art grants to Lorenzo de Medici taking notice of the young man Michelangelo and moving him into his palace to get intimate, or Peggy Guggenheim sponsoring Jackson Pollack.
When Lorenzo de’ Medici adopted the young Michelangelo into his family, he did much more than hire on a hand to serve his needs. Private patronage is personal; it is immediate and intimate, and what is true of Florence and our temporary city is also true of every celebrated art scene ever known. One example is the relationship of a famous heiress, Peggy Guggenheim, and Jackson Pollack, a struggling painter. Peggy paid the painter’s daily bills, bought his work when no one else would, and organized his first art show. At a soirée held in her home, she even let him pee in her fireplace (though not on the carpet)…
…Money sluiced through the streets and piazzas of Renaissance Florence, and yet the sheer hydraulic force of capital did not determine every outcome. Money was a means, but not an end. What mattered most was social interaction in the context of a networked culture driven by ideals, and Burning Man may be regarded in a similar light. One way to fathom this phenomenon is to follow the money. In 2016, Black Rock City will distribute 1.2 million dollars to artists in the form of honoraria.
It is around 3% of revenues – almost exactly half this year’s $2,349,000 Vehicle Pass take.
Artists have been asking for a fair and equitable contract. Here at Burners.Me, we have been suggesting more should be spent on art than on lawyers. It doesn’t sound like Larry & Co are listening to either of these groups, so we wonder where the feedback he’s getting is coming from – and if his information diet is being distorted and propagandized as it moves up the food chain.
In the case of Burning Man, such quasi-governmental patronage does not exhaust resources that are devoted to art. As with competitions sponsored by the Wool Guild, Black Rock City’s honoraria are awarded by a small committee, but this curatorship, as practiced by a few, is counter-balanced by a radically populist patronage. Each year many artist groups will subsidize their projects through community fundraising events and crowd-sourced campaigns on the Internet. Some critics say that Burning Man should shoulder all of these expenses, but we have found that self-initiated efforts create constituencies, loyal networks that support these artists on and off the playa.
This has produced a flow of art that’s issued out of Black Rock City in the form of privately commissioned work, civic installations, and exhibitions subsidized by festivals. Now this surge of money in support of art is going global.
[Source: Burningman Journal]
Radically populist patronage? Sounds like Sanders and Trump voters.
I would love to see a link to somewhere on the Internet where somebody said that BMOrg should pay all the costs of all the art at Burning Man. I think the general consensus here has been that they should pay more of the costs than a third of the pieces they promote the crap out of and claim credit for – and they should probably pay for The Temple, the same way they do for The Man. Let us spend our artist funding budget supporting pieces that wouldn’t otherwise get there, rather than mega-works you can promote with Oprah and Dr Phil and sell tickets to for $1207+ for spectators to come and behold.
Here is a recent link to Larry Harvey repeating his oft-told tall tale that “no artist has ever signed their art at Burning Man”. This previously espoused philosophy seems to be the antithesis of his latest claim, that the art at Black Rock City funded by their annual Medici donation of $1.2 million (by year BM30) has enabled outside careers and markets for its artists. Personally, I believe the latter to be closer to the truth, and his earlier claim to be false. Nice to see you coming round, Larry.
Last year, in an interview with Ignite Channel, BMOrg were claiming to have created their own art market.
So instead of trying to cater to the traditional art market, Burning Man has created its own. The Burning Man Project not only funds art projects shown at the festival itself, but supports artists creating interactive projects in cities internationally.
Many cultural festivals have since followed Burning Man’s example in putting art front and center. With pride, Harvey shares: “Many people come [to Burning Man] for the art and stay for the community. (…) We are making it more possible for artists to sell their art in such a way that they can live off their art.” By supporting artists who would otherwise struggle to gain recognition in the traditional art market, Burning Man and other festivals are giving birth to creative dreams while shining a light on unlikely art.
“Anybody who’s going to take art as a vocation has to endure enough. Artists deserve to make a living.” — Larry Harvey
I would be interested to hear the opinions of some Burner artists about this. Has BMOrg helped them to live off their art? Last we heard, BMOrg’s artist contract specifically forbade artists from paying themselves anything from the art grant. It also said BMOrg take a 10% cut if the art piece is sold off-Playa.
Are they going to claim credit, and a cut of the money, for this? If you ask me, the credit and the money should all go to Marco.
[Update 3/13/16 11:55pm]
A reader has let us know that the reason the art grants have “increased” from $850k to $1.2m in the last couple of years is that the costs of The Man are now being lumped together with Art Honoraria grants.
[Update 3/13/16 5:42pm]
Here’s what BMOrg said last week:
Burning Man Arts is funding BRC art to the tune of $1.2 million this year, including these Honoraria recipients, as well as the sculptures, the bell towers, and the 33 Guild Workshops in the Piazza around the Man.
The sculptures? Meaning, The Man and his rotating clock frame? Or other sculptures as well as the Man and the Temple?
The $ are also funding blacksmithing collective Iron Monkeys, linked to BMOrg Board member Kay Morrison, to provide a functioning blacksmith shop in the desert:
There will even be a functioning, participatory blacksmith shop — the Piazza de Ferro — built by the Iron Monkeys. Sparks will fly!
What further indications do we have that the $1.2 million BRC art budget is funding The Man, as well as everything else listed and fractional funding of 60 art projects?
In the most recent financial information we have for the Burning Man Project (2014) the Man and platform can be found at the bottom: $407,055 for Cargo Cult and $237,581 for Fertility 2.0. It’s hard to imagine that 2014’s 120 foot-high Man cost much less than this to construct.
As you can see, in 2014 the Man and Platform are no longer being listed as a separate line item (Donations to Schools and Regionals have also disappeared). Are they office expenses? Contractors has risen $2 million from 2013 to 2014, neatly mirroring a drop in (estimated) profit after all expenses from $4 million to $2 million. Perhaps it could be hidden away in there – but, why?