Follow the Money [Updates]

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:

Art, Money and the Renaissance: Re-imagining the Relationship

What Powered the Renaissance? (Could it Have Happened Without Cash?)

The Renaissance’s $ecret Weapon for Arts Funding

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.


Artist Marco Cochrane with Bliss Dance, now in front of the MGM at Park Las Vegas. Image: MGM Resorts

[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?

2014 bmp comparison financials 2013 2013 burnersdotme 2

38 comments on “Follow the Money [Updates]

  1. Pingback: If Burning Man Dies, Is There A Will? | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

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  4. I was not sure where to post this article link, so I picked this thread as being closest in topic content… (feel free to move it or delete if I was wrong), and my comment on-topic: of coarse it’s all about the money. That’s what the founders split up over (IMHO).

    sfist [dot] com/2015/09/11/this_corporate_ad_mocking_burning_m.php

  5. They keep reducing the categories. How about one category: “event” for $33 million. Totally transparent, right?

  6. [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.

    This is stunning. This is of the meaning of these people are pathological liars. They desire credit for raising the artist grants from $850k to $1.2m, except of they did not raise the artist grants in the least.

    I was curious in regards of, penned within their announcement of the artists honoraria grants, they stated the $1.2 million included the bell towers, and the sculptures. The bell towers are the towers at the corners of the piazza, perchance, of a cost of near to $100,000. I did not understand the meaning of sculptures. At present, we know, the sculptures are the Man, and the Man base turning Burning Man on his head. This is of the meaning of the artist honoraria grants of 2016 are solely near to $700,000, not $1.2 million.

    In the manner Burning Man stated on the Burning Man blog when Danger Ranger lied about burnersxxx, they have no requirement to be truthful. I am curious in regards of the prior comment of Danger Ranger, on their blog, of the cash they are due, within 2018, for the Burning Man(tm) trademarks, and other IP, will not be a huge amount, of what is not a huge amount, $20 million? Might this be the rationale of why they do not desire to pay the costs of the artists? My belief is they must disclose the details of this massive conflicts of interests to donors of cash, stock, art, and labour, most especially after their lies in regards of the artist honoraria grants.

    • I also can’t find any evidence that the 6 members of Decommodification, LLC are the same as the 6 “founders” of BM (former members of Black Rock City LLC).

      Instead, the members are Larry, Marian, Crimson, Harley, and Doug Robertson (CFO)

      Presumably the CFO votes the way the CEO tells them to.

      Danger Ranger, March 2014:

      The sole purpose of Decommodification LLC is to protect the Burning Man name and I’ve programmed it to automatically dissolve after its mission is completed.

      Larry has the last word on the Transition discussion. (But I am pleased to note that I am the one who programmed the deadman switch into Decommodification LLC.)

      So who is there now to pull the “dead man’s trigger”? I note that he showed up homeless to Burning Man last year. We have to take Danger Ranger’s word for all this, he has already proven that he is a liar. In the 2007 John Law suit, Stuart Mangrum testified under oath that Danger Ranger was not telling the truth – perjury was the word he specifically used.

      • Has it been verified of that the Man, and the Man base, are within the $1.2 million? This is most stunning. Jenny Kane, of the Reno Gazette Journal, reported Megan Miller stated the $1.2 million of artist grants in, at the least, two articles.

        In addendum, expect of Corporationwiki to be changed, Corporationwiki gains the data from the states, and it permits the corporations to edit the data. This has occurred upon the Black Rock City, LLC data. It is most stunning.

        • Some verification of this (quite credible sounding) claim is provided by the most recent financials. The Man and platform are no longer accounted for separately, and it’s hard to see what other expense category they might appear in – it could only be contractors, which has strangely leaped an extra $2 million a year between 2013 and 2014

          If I were to reveal any more details from the tipster it may give clues to their identity, but it definitely seemed legit to me and confirms what I already suspected – and what the numbers show.

          I note that 3 weeks ago in the Reno Gazette-Journal, Megan Miller said they spent $1.5 million on art last year (2015).

          • By appearance, the $1.2 million number was edited from the Reno Gazette Journal article on the 2016 art grants. I am most certain of the $1.2 million number was within the first version of the article, and I am of the belief of it was within a quote of Megan Miller, in the manner of claiming credit in due of raising artist funding from $800,000, two years ago, to $1.2 million in 2016.

            The Burning Man Journal post of Honoraria Art Installations of March 8, 2016 states
            ‘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.’, of which, Larry changes it to In 2016, Black Rock City will distribute 1.2 million dollars to artists in the form of honoraria.

            The Reno Gazette Journal article of Most Burning Man 2016 tickets to cost between $424 – $1308 So what does Burning Man do with $1.2 million? Last year we issued $1.2 million in grants directly to artists through Black Rock City Honoraria. … Might this article, in addendum, be of the need to be edited? Or, perchance, might this version of the $1.2 million include of the art grants in due of the regionals?

            The BMOrg is of the need to answer the query of ‘What is the amount of cash, from 2016 BRC LLC ticket sales, granted directly to the artists in 2016?‘ in the place of doing their words, and numbers, rubbish.

          • Perchance, the difference might be in due of the non-BRC art funding, in addendum of art grants in due of the regionals. My belief is of might the BMOrg answer the query of ‘What is the amount of cash, from 2016 BRC LLC ticket sales, granted directly to the playa artists in 2016?‘ in a truthful manner, the number would be near to $700,000, including of the grant for the temple, not $1.2 million. The $1.2 million number being deleted from the Reno Gazette Journal article, states much.

          • Time will tell if the dedicated Burning Man reporter is there to do actual investigative journalism, or just to repeat things fed from the propagandists.

            With the “sculptures” (The Man), bell towers, piazza, and 33 guilds, it seems like they are spending a large chunk of the art budget on infrastructure. Will the artists building the bell towers be allowed to sign their work now?

          • I am in sympathy with the the dedicated Burning Man reporter for the Reno Gazette Journal. By appearances, she was hired as a proper news reporter, but, after a month, or two months, her editors then required of her to solely pen clickbait PR articles with numerous pictures, purposed to sell more ads. My belief is she is not permitted to pen proper news stories in due of her editors.

          • The Space Whale is to be the awesome art at Burning Man of 2016, in a most similar manner as of Bliss Dance. By appearance, the Space Whale crew gained solely a little grant from the Borg, they state So far we have raised $57,000 for The Space Whale which is about one third of our total budget. In due of this, in addendum of in due of the other rubbish, my belief is of it is near to impossible of the art honoraria grants of 2016 to be bigger than near to $700,000, the art grants are not the $1.2 million, of which the Borg lies. What is the rationale of the Space Whale crew even doing the Space Whale on the playa?

    • Sad, but hardly unexpected. You can be sure that the Borg makes sure every penny buys them control. Even that $1,500 art grant outreach fund bought them control over those who compete to help decide how to parcel it out, as well as a claim that they are being “democratic.”

      I wonder if the Borg’s cult manipulation skills come naturally, or if they hired consultants. Maybe those Arthur Anderson alumni are expanding their skills offered… or maybe they are channeling Eddie Bernays.

  7. Kudos, burnersxxx, for providing to the artists a place to discuss the art grants, and the artist contract, not controlled by representatives of the Borg, might the artists decide to do so.

    Burners are not of the knowledge of that the artist contract is so bad, for the artists, of that the Borg is of the need to hide it by non disclosure contracts. In addendum of, the grants are for solely 25%, to 50%, of the costs of the artists, for wood, metal, transportation, and other costs. These are comments of the artists upon these matters. Even the regionals representatives of the Borg are pissed in these matters, they are paid solely $1,000 for the costs of each of the 33 guild workshops near to the Man, and the regionals must pay all of the other costs, of thousands of dollars. The Borg gains $38 million in due of ticket sales and taxes, but pays solely 3% of it towards the costs of the artists. I do not understand the manner of which the board of directors of a 501(c)3 public benefit corporation approves of a budget of this manner, and does not fire the people doing this rubbish.

  8. “The art market is largely about commodity transactions.”
    I wonder if Larry’s fellow “curators” at The Met and MoMA would agree. Or are we only taking about buying and selling… Sorry, my mistake for missing the default world commercialism. Too much time in BRC I guess.

    “The economics of the art world have … made it much less relevant to people in their lives.”
    I don’t think Larry has spent much time in the Southern Hemisphere:

    “We have enormous tolerance for amateur efforts.”
    Gee, Larry. That’s nice. BTW, where do we get to send the bill for our tolerated “amateur efforts?”

    “We have a profoundly democratic instinct about these things.”
    You are welcome to begin showing that instinct at any time. What we are seeing out here is a pretty fascist/top-down corporate model: buy in, or don’t buy in, but we don’t care what you think unless you want to buy a voting block interest.

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