Questions and Answers
Who are the New Patrons?
You are. The New Patrons are people who want to give themselves a voice and visible form to their wishes. For the longest time, only a privileged few were able to commission a work of art. Now we want everyone to have that opportunity. Citizens work together with artists to bring something new into the world: works of art that they need and that make a difference. If you want to draw society’s attention to something that bothers you, want to articulate what you want and what you hope for, you can become the patron commissioning an art that’s not just for the museum but becomes part of where you live. The Association of New Patrons provides the framework and supports citizens, artists, and cooperation partner as they commission, fund, and realize ambitious projects.
And if I don’t care for art?
At the outset, our projects aren’t actually about art. They’re about you, about your community and something that should change or that you want to shine a spotlight on. You don’t have to like art or even know anything about it. But art can be a way to tackle an issue together, to find allies where you wouldn’t expect them and come up with new ideas. Artists then cast your concern into tangible and specific form. A work of art speaks to widely different people. Once it’s there it represents something that can be of importance to many and unites a larger community around itself. When things are in a rut, art can open up novel perspectives; it can come up with a new language when we don’t have the right words; it can invent things that seemed impossible, even in places where art wouldn’t normally have any place. Experience shows: when citizens come together around an art project, they set something in motion.
Who can become a Patron?
Anyone. All over Europe, thousands of people have realized more than five hundred projects. People from all walks of life and very different professional backgrounds have become patrons. Locations have included the streets of big cities and village squares, and any subject can be worth being addressed. As a basic rule, we become active when people approach us with a subject that’s of urgent interest to them as well as others. It may concern as few as twenty people or the population of an entire region. What’s crucial is the significance a commission has for the community. In a word, you can become a Patron. So can your neighbor. Your sports club can, or your mayor. In most cases, a smaller group initiates the project and then we contribute our experience to make it a success. Once a project is underway, it often attracts additional allies.
Who decides what’s a good project?
With the New Patrons, there are no applications, no bureaucracy, and no jury meetings. Our most important people on the scene are our mediators, and of course the Patrons. Our mediators know their way around their regions. They talk to the most important stakeholders, from administrative authorities to neighborhood initiatives. They listen, ask tough questions, do the research, and draw up a list of priorities. Because in the end it’s they who must decide which project to pursue next. Remodeling a school? Building the monument commemorating a historic event that will otherwise be forgotten? Improving a village’s appearance? Delving into a contentious issue that no one wants to talk about in public? We’ve done all these things in the past. The mediators select the projects we’ll take on. Because unfortunately we can’t be everywhere at the same time. We take you and all partners in a project seriously, and so our collaborative efforts needs time to produce lasting results.
Who’s going to pay the bill?
Right now, the German Federal Cultural Foundation supports the work of our mediators with funding that defrays the costs for all steps of the running projects up to and including a finalized design. As we approach this stage, we look for funding sources to pay for the realization of the work. The mediators research cooperation partners, bring in sponsors, and approach the business community and political decision-makers. In smaller and economically struggling communities, projects are especially dependent on the broad-based cooperation of local as well as national or international donors and advocates. We help bring them on board. The goal is for the community rather than a few individuals to take ownership of the finished work. Some become municipal property; others are owned by a nonprofit organization or in the care of a museum.
What does the implementation of a project look like?
Each project is unique. Still, there’s a general procedure that we stick to in realizing any one of them. Citizens have a concern and approach a mediator. Together they frame the commission - sometimes it takes extended conversations to find out what exactly they have in mind. The mediator then identifies an artist whose practice is a good fit for the assignment and introduces him or her to the Patrons. If they agree, the artist sketches an idea for the work. His or her proposal will often chart an unconventional approach to the problem that no one had thought of. The design is realized when the Patrons and the artist agree to proceed. The mediator supervises the implementation of the idea. Many projects have lasting positive effects on the local community’s life because the original Patrons decide to take on other causes or because the work sparks new initiatives
Where are the New Patrons?
The New Patrons have been active in France for almost thirty years and in Belgium and Italy for quite some time; affiliates in Spain, Switzerland, and other countries have been launched in recent years. The New Patrons are wherever mediators are active in a region. As of now, forty-two such regions have been demarcated in Europe, and their number is growing slowly but steadily, in Germany and elsewhere. The German New Patrons were established in 2007, and right now we’re active in the rural region of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern / Brandenburg, the industrialized Rhineland and Ruhr area, and Berlin with altogether seven mediators. We’re supported by regional anchor points: art institutions with wide and deep networks in their regions that provide additional support for the projects. The demand is considerable, and so we plan to keep growing and extend our activities throughout Germany.
Where do the artists come from?
In many instances, it’s best when the Patrons work with artists from outside their community. That’s not to say that it’s necessary to fly someone in from far away. But a project usually profits from the fresh and independent perspective an artist can bring to the table. And from his or her experience: the quality of someone’s previous work is an important criterion, but so is what he or she has learned working on earlier commissions - considering this factor helps ensure that the artist selected will be the perfect fit for a new project. The mediators take all these aspects into account when they propose an artist. That’s why artists who are unfamiliar with the particular local situation and haven’t met the Patrons are generally the best choice in the framework in our model. The new influences and the public attention a prominent artist brings to the project ultimately benefit everyone involved and the region.
How do I contact the New Patrons?
Write us an email or give us a call. We can put you in touch with the mediator in charge of your region or tell you when we will be able to become active in your community. Or contact one of our anchor points in the New Patrons network, which work closely with the mediators:
Die Gesellschaft der Neuen Auftraggeber – GNA gGmbH
Tempelhofer Damm 2, 12101 Berlin
T +49 (0)30 57792856
BKV Brandenburgischer Kunstverein Potsdam e.V., Potsdam
T +49 (0)331 279753981, #firstname.lastname@example.org§
Kunstverein für Mecklenburg und Vorpommern Schwerin e.V., Schwerin
T +49 (0)385 48597859, #email@example.com§
schloss bröllin e.V., Fahrenwalde / Bröllin
T +49 (0)39747 565026, #firstname.lastname@example.org§
Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach
T +49 (0)2161 9908812, #email@example.com§
The Protocol of the New Patrons?
In 1990, the artist François Hers, Paris, penned the Protocol of the New Patrons. It became the founding document of a movement that spread through France and later through Europe and beyond. More and more people have joined: curators and villagers, mayors and artists, teenagers, scientists, and many others. The Protocol outlines the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders who come together to create a work of art, whichever form it may take. In terms of its legal status, François Hers’ Protocol is itself a work of art, designed to be adopted, in the Open Source spirit, by anyone who respects its rules.
The Protocol of the New Patrons
defines the roles and responsibilities of the players who carry out an action together, the goal of which is the creation of artworks in all fields.
- This Protocol proposes to every person who wishes it within civil society, without exception and in any place, either singly or in association with others, the means to assume the responsibility of commissioning an artwork from an artist. As a Patron, it is up to the person in question to understand and to state a reason for which art is meant to be and for the investment of the collectivity in the artwork.
- It proposes that artists create and invent forms that may reply, in their infinite diversity, to the demands of society and accept, thereby, to share the roles that make artistic creation a collective responsibility, not just a private one.
- It proposes that mediators establish connections between the works and the public, the possibility also to be mediators between the artist and the patron in person, and, beyond them, among all the players who happen to be involved. The mediator organizes their cooperation. He provides the necessary knowledge for the choice of the medium and the artist as well as the skills that will allow for the production of an artwork that respects the requirements of the demand as well as the creation.
- The mediator can also act as a public producer to take the artists' initiative into account when he finds they correspond to a contemporary situation.
- It proposes that the elected representatives, sponsors and those responsible for public and private organisms contribute by their investment to the development of an "initiative democracy" while they assume a political mediation that allows the artwork to be inscribed in the community for which it is intended. They also personally assume the responsibility of an offer that responds to a collective necessity.
- It proposes that researchers in various fields contribute towards recognition of the necessity of art, by putting the undertaken action into perspective and basing it on an intelligent reading of the situations at stake that will be better shared.
In committing to an equal sharing of responsibilities, all players agree to manage through negotiation the tensions and conflicts inherent in public life within a democracy.
The work of art, having become an actor of public life, thus ceases to be merely the emblematic expression of someone's individuality to become the expression of autonomous persons who have decided to form a community in order to invent new ways of relating to the world and to give a shared meaning to contemporary creative activity.
Financed by private and public subventions, the artwork becomes the property of a collectivity and its value is no longer a market value, but the value of the usage this collectivity makes of it and the symbolic importance conferred upon it.
François Hers, 1990