Why corporations care for art?

By far the largest contemporary art event in the world, the Venice Biennale, has opened its doors already for the 56th time this spring. This International Art Exhibition runs from May 9 to November 22, 2015 and takes place at the Giardini, the Arsenale and in various other locations around Venice.

Over the years, the event has brought together people from around world. This year it has 89 national participants. First timers include countries like Mongolia and Mauritius. The main exhibition, All World’s Futures, curated by Okwui Enwezor, spans over the vast halls of the Central Pavilion (Giardini) and the Arsenale with 136 artists from 53 countries. In addition, 44 official collateral events and numerous unofficial events complement the growing program.

The opening week of the Biennale offers a chance to observe the complex ecosystem of the contemporary art world, as artists, curators, collectors, consultants, dealers, PR professionals, museum professionals, sponsors, media, trendsetters, opinion-leaders and others spend time together in close quarters. The ecosystem centers on the artists and art institutions, but also other organizations benefit from events like the Biennale.

This year, much focus was on Prada – more specifically Fondazione Prada, which has been co-chaired by Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli since 1995. The fashion house has a long-lasting and sincere commitment to the arts. In Venice they inaugurated the Fondazione Prada in 2011 at Ca’ Corner della Regina palace that was build in 1728, and this year we saw the opening of their new Milan venue by Rem Koolhaas.

For Fondazione Prada, the central question is: What is a cultural institution for? Even though Miuccia Prada is determined to keep her interest in art and her fashion empire strictly separate, one can’t help but wonder why corporations such as Prada, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Swatch, Audi and others find that being a part of the art world also benefits their corporate needs.

The involvement of corporations in the world of arts has a long history and goes way beyond than the idea of “sponsorship”. The involvement in art projects and programs, and the fact that many corporations have spent considerable amounts of resources in their quest to create world-class arts organizations of their own, pays testimony to the importance and central position of arts also in the corporate world.

The arts – especially in places like the Venice Biennale – offer an unprecedented platform where corporations can benefit from the gravitation of the arts world. In a grander scale, art offers an insight into history and humanity, an understanding of past, present and future, a mirroring glass for development and reflections. In a smaller scale, it offers a link to certain influential people who are hard to connect with, such as trendsetters, designers, collectors and celebrities, who value corporations’ genuine commitment to the arts.

Events like the Biennale bring together an ecosystem of influence, significance and power that rarely connects in this scale outside the art world. To be a part of it can help organizations, corporations and individuals not only develop a greater understanding of the issues that currently shape our world, but also to benefit from this platform in ways that are difficult, some even impossible, to organize elsewhere.

Sanna-Mari Jäntti

Sanna-Mari Jäntti is Senior Advisor at Miltton Networks. She specialises in third sector organisations including NGO’s, arts and culture organisations, education, philanthropy and other non-profit organisations in Finland and abroad. 2015 was her fourth time at the Venice Biennale.

Twitter @sannamarijantti