View from the Hermitage. The Wealthy Are Ready
For the second year in a row the Hermitage has marked Maecenas Day. According to Horatio, Maecenas was born in April.
This name has a nice ring to it. Moreover, the Hermitage has a symbol of the father of art patrons - the famous painting by Tiepolo entitled Maecenas Presenting the Liberal Arts to Emperor Augustus. Several years ago we did a joint program with IBM when the company became a benefactor of the Hermitage and we put this picture on the Internet for the first time.
On Maecenas Day one year ago the Hermitage received gifts. But this time gifts were given to other museums, libraries and schools. On the stage of the Hermitage Theatre, there were sledges being presented to the Museum of Ethnography, while the painting by Tiepolo decorated an easel and we heard someone playing a Steinway grand piano - which is one of the most popular gifts we have received in recent years. All of this looked like a modern installation meant to symbolize sponsorship of the arts.
Not all ideas come from the West. Russia can offer Maecenas Day to the world. It seems to me that we have found a successful formula for expressing our thanks to people who donate money to support culture. The holiday saw the light of day due to poverty. Our country had no tradition of thanking its benefactors and patrons. The state does not want to give them any tax benefits. Charitable donations are subject to taxes. One had to think of something. It is important that not only the recipients of money but also the donors be given some satisfaction.
Charitable activities and patronage of the arts are broad concepts. The Hermitage also acts as benefactor when it responds to requests to conduct free of charge tours. I often say that the Hermitage is a big benefactor, having in mind the free visits to the museum granted to children, students and pensioners and the days when entrance is free to all visitors. This is a considerable amount of money which the museum knowingly excludes from its budget. This money otherwise could be spent on its development, to purchase exhibit items, restore rooms, pay salary to staff... The museum accepts this loss of income, because it keeps in mind its social function.
I have had occasion to meet with Russian charitable organizations and foundations. I believe that charitable activity is flourishing these days in our country. Not everyone talks about it aloud. Russian charity cannot be said to be self-interested. For many years there have been promises in our country to pass a law on charitable donations. But the state most likely will not adopt it, since it believes this is just an attempt to evade taxes. Some changes to the Tax Code may be introduced, but state legislation in no way encourages benefactors.
A great many people are engaged in charitable work just because they like it. They understand their moral responsibility and get satisfaction from this. They are motivated not by material stimuli but my moral stimuli. In this sense Russia is different from the West. For example, in America there are well developed financial stimuli for charitable contributions. Russians have long ago shown that they know how to donate, giving away their wealth and not receiving any advantages in return.
There is often confusion in the use of the terms benefactor and sponsor. We call benefactors those who spend a lot of money on art. It is customary to think that Shchukin and Morozov were great collectors and benefactors. But that is not right. They bought paintings from artists rather cheaply, for they knew that in time these paintings could grow in value. Of course, Shchukin and Morozov helped to develop art, but they were not benefactors - unlike Savva Morozov, who gave his money to the theatre.
What is the difference between a benefactor or patron of the arts and a sponsor? A benefactor donates money out of love for art. By contrast, sponsorship is a sort of business arrangement. In Europe a sponsor gives money, shall we say, to an exhibition and receives it back if the profits exceed the contribution. This is a type of financial investment rather than charitable gift. I think that a mechanism whereby someone donates money and then gets it back from taxes could be applied here with respect to museum construction or restoration.
Nonetheless, an important event in the legal life of culture and science has happened here not long ago. I have in mind the adoption of a law on endowments. How is it that many institutions of higher learning and museums survive in the West? People donate large sums of money so that institutions can exist on interest without touching the basic capital. The first example which comes to mind is the Nobel Prize. Only a small percent of the fixed capital endowment can be used at difficult moments. Not long ago the Metropolitan Museum had such an occasion. It was forced to spend some of the ‘untouchable’ assets. The system of endowments is very effective.
The young generation of benefactors, lawyers and leaders of institutions of higher learning have made an effort for a law on endowments to be adopted here. Though it was hardly perfect, the bill did make its way through the Duma and this fact inspires optimism. One of the activists on behalf of a law on endowments is the European University in Petersburg. I can speak of this since I am the chairman of its board of trustees. The university is one of the places where the mechanism for creating endowments is being worked out.
The scheme looks like this: benefactors give money and become patrons of the educational institution, where their names are forever entered into its official history. Quite a few people would like to finance this sort of thing rather than concerts, festivals, exhibitions or receptions. ..The first steps have been made and the results, in my view, are good. There is an interaction between the government, public organizations, legislators and benefactors. There is a good movement forward. This did not come about from nothing, rather it was won as the result of a struggle.
A law came about because young people got involved. We often talk about brain drain. Among those teaching In the European University are instructors who studied and worked in the largest universities around the world. They returned with experience in teaching and organizing the sciences. Now they are adapting this experience to our conditions. The European University is not a state institution. It lives off of money from foundations and the government of Petersburg. It provides postgraduate education. It introduces European experience, including experience in the area of charitable support.
In talking about charitable donations, you have to remember that any large organization can become a benefactor. The state cannot be a benefactor, though it is obliged to preserve the cultural heritage. Therefore demands should be made on the state and benefactors should be thanked. Ways and means have to be found to thank them.
The Hermitage receives money from various sources. Donors rarely set conditions, although this does sometimes happen. Their money ensures that we enjoy a large degree of freedom. It helps us to be independent when we make decisions. This is what makes the present situation of the museum so different from what it was during the Soviet period. In order to preserve this autonomy, we need an economic basis.
With money from benefactors we can undertake large projects and then draw the government into them. There is the good principle of matching funds which the state sets out: get money and then we will also give. The repairs carried out in the New Hermitage with help from Holland, France and Italy were done on a 50:50 basis. Sponsors put up half the money and the missing part was allocated by the state. With support from the World Bank and the state we began an international campaign to raise funds for the reconstruction of the General Staff building. If we collect enough, the state will add to this. A scheme has of partnership between the steae and private capital has developed. To a certain extent, the museum forces them to compete with one another.
The Hermitage receives a lot from the state, because it demonstrates how the money is used effectively. There are quite a few cultural organizations which know how to raise money and use it properly. Charity not only helps to generate money. It also creates an atmosphere in which good deeds are born and are realized.
The idea that the wealthy should share is essentially correct. In the West it is deeply established in the culture of social relations. Major foreign corporations know that they should help the city in which they intend to work. This goes without saying, the same as the need to put on a clean shirt before you go out to the theatre.
What is really important is to appreciate that understanding your role in society is acquired gradually. If you force people to share, nothing good will come of it. After the Revolution, everything was divided up, but no one got any richer.