Does Corporate Money Taint Opera (and Other Arts)?


Just add oil.

Evidently the activists at something called UK Tar Sands Network think so. The group performed a takeoff of Swan Lake in which Odette is doused in oil as a way to disrupt an open-air live broadcast of the Royal Opera's Cinderella in Trafalgar Square. Odette dies as a way to protest BP's oilsands projects in Canada. In a nice HuffPost UK article, Nathalie Rothschild explains that the oil-soaked Swan Lake disruption is "part of a bigger drive to pressure arts institutions into refusing sponsorship from 'destructive companies,' with the goal of making it "'socially unacceptable' for cultural institutions to accept funding from 'Big Oil'."

Rothschild then asks:

So where should the money come from, especially in these times of endless austerity packages?

It seems the guerrilla arts activists haven't thought that far. But there is at least an underlying presumption in these campaigns that corporate money is tainted, impure and hides a sinister agenda, while public funding is benign and harmless. Recent history tells us otherwise.

During the New Labour years, state funding for the arts in Britain was relatively plentiful, but so were the conditions tacked on to it. This legacy lives on, as arts practitioners and institutions seeking state funding are still compelled to prove that they can meet a range of targets that have nothing to do with creating and presenting high-quality art and everything to do with fulfilling various political agendas. The price of state funding is all too often turning art into an instrument for tackling everything from racism and bullying to obesity and crime.

Rothschild of course notes that by supporting opera, museums, and so forth, companies like BP are trying to buy good PR. However, corporations rarely try to dictate the "message" of the arts they support. Their hope is that the better and more popular the art, the better the PR they garner. In contrast, it is rare that government-supported art goes untainted by politics, e.g., National Endowment for the Arts support for "Appalachian Voices" performances against strip mining or New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani Sen. Jesse Helm's attempt to censor "Piss Christ."

Corporate support arts message: Please buy our products. Government support arts message: Do this or don't do that.


NEXT: David Mamet's Right Turn

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    1. These are vicious. It’s amazing what you can get away with calling an old WASP dude.

      1. KOCHPERA!!!1

      2. Vicious? The Kochzzz!11!!1!!1! have got to go down!

  2. It’s not over until the skinny, non-smoking lady sings.

    1. Oh, they smoke, dude. They’ll do anything to keep their weight as low as possible, much like runway models. They smoke a lot.

      1. And, I have been assured by my ex-dancer friends, they can out-crazy an actress any day of the week.

        1. Can you imagine how crazy a red-headed professional ballerina must be?

          1. It would be like a naked singularity of nucking futs. No ordinary sanity could survive within its event horizon, the width of several large cities.

            1. “Girl… you know I love you, baby, but I just can’t cross your Schwarzschild Radius to show you that love.”

          2. Yes. Unfortunately.

  3. So much alt-text win.

    Yeah, I’d oil that up.

    1. I married a ballerina. It was totally worth being the only guy in an adult ballet class 🙂

      1. I had a friend who dated the only guy in her ballet class. Unfortunately, they could only ignore his obvious homosexuality for so long.

        1. After three kids, I think I’ll just stay in the closet.

          1. There’s a guy who takes his “beard” seriously…

    2. Yeah definately best alt-text in a while.

  4. If corporate money does why wouldn’t government money do so?

    Speaking of government money, why won’t the most transparent administration in history televise the debt limit negotiations?

    1. Same reason they didn’t televise the healthcare negotiations: everybody wants rape, but nobody wants to see how rape is made.

  5. Corporate money has no influence on artistic integrity. The last time I saw the Barber of Texaco I was nearly brought to tears.

    1. Didn’t Bob Hope play in that?

  6. Taxpayers should fund the arts unless it’s a symphony playing Mendelssohn

  7. Taint Opera

    Heh heh heh. Opera.

    1. Nice change-up.

  8. If opera can’t survive with only the revenue of consumers, it should not exist. The resources can be better used elsewhere.

    1. You’re obviously so hardcore libertarian that you know how private companies should spend their money. If only you had the power to prevent them from wasting their precious resources.

    2. Lots of businesses survive on a combination of consumer purchases AND advertising. Corporate donations to the arts IS advertising and is no different.

    3. The ability to generate a profit is not the sole indicator of a thing’s worth.

      1. No, it just means society values it more. If you think the dude on the subway playing the guitar is an artist to be enjoyed that’s your taste, but the government shouldn’t be giving him our money.

        1. I meant to change the handle back to my regular name. No meta-joke intended.

        2. It means people who can afford to buy the product value it enough to pay for it. We don’t ask the armed forces to generate a profit. Other things are in the category of non-profit-making and valuable.

          1. And to the extent people agree that things which are not within the purview of the state are valuable, they can donate voluntarily.

            This isn’t hard, Tony.

            1. No, it’s not–but for some reason you can’t comprehend either the free rider problem or that the only just way to do such policy is through democratic legitimacy, which you want to replace with benevolent libertarian despotism.

          2. Hmm, if only there was a website that allowed artists and music groups to upload their videos for free so that others can see them for free. I even hear there is a social networking website that allows such groups to create fan pages so that their content can be shared even more efficiently.

      2. In that case I am sure the performers would be happy to work for free.

      3. It is the only way to determine cash value.

        1. Right, which isn’t the sole measure of a thing’s worth.

          1. “Right, which isn’t the sole measure of a thing’s worth.”

            Which *IS* the sole measure of a thing’s worth.

      4. The ability to generate a profit is not the sole indicator of a thing’s worth.

        That’s good, because an Opera company will never generate a profit.

        Opera is insanely expensive to produce and ticket sales only cover 30%-40% of the cost. The rest has to come from donors, both private and corporate.

        I will say that the corporate money never had an ounce of influence on what we produced, considering how it was a very small percentage of total doanations. Wealthy donors, OTOH, can (and have) underwrite the cost of a specific production that they want to see performed, if they have that kind of $$$ and clout with the .org.

        1. Donations are revenue just like ticket sales.

        2. Big donors get preferential treatment. So, they’re buying something they value with their donations.

          It doesn’t matter whether the donor is “buying” better seats, meet-and-greet opportunities with the stars of the show, bragging rights (PR), or ephemeral goodwill with the local population, it is still a transaction with a cost and a benefit.

          1. All very true. You can pretty much put anything up for sale….er…as a benefit of becoming a bonafide patron. But not all donors are created equal.

            I had the unique pleasure of holding a check for $1,000,000 once, given to us by one of our board members, who owned a string of car dealerships locally. It wasn’t from his company account, but handwritten, palsy and all, from his personal account. Very cool.

            The inconvenient truth for lefties is that, if not for the “rich”, there would be no performing arts. And many of these rich get their wealth from their corporate ventures.

            They underwrite the lions share of the arts everywhere, for their own benefit and everyone else as well. They want to share their passion with the public. If that means they get their name on it, who am I to care?

            1. If I were super-rich, I’d fund a lot of butthole-related art. Every city in America would have a fancy art butthole to call their own.

              1. I think the experimental theater groups have that covered.

                1. I’m not just talking about yams in a grandmother’s ass, I want permanent butthole sculptures. Grand designs. Buttholes dozens of feet across. Dozens of feet in a butthole. A foot with a dozen buttholes. Think big. Think really big. Think really big buttholes.

                  1. I shouldn’t have been drinking a glass of water as I was reading this sub-thread.

                    1. Me, neither.

                      Gotta go!

              2. Would you have the Butthole Surfers come play at they unveilings?

                1. Yes, but they have to play “I Saw an X-Ray of a Girl Passing Gas” as the first song every time.

            2. I imagine this patron felt enormous satisfaction when passing on this check to the opera. Who says money can’t buy happiness 😉

            3. True, but there does seem to be a difference between today’s rich and those of the last gilded age. Noblesse oblige seems to have died, and today’s rich seem largely infected by an Ayn Rand mentality. I don’t expect public funds to support robust arts programs, though I don’t see anything wrong with them providing concert halls and the like.

              What’s scary, to me, about the comparative lack of public-mindedness among the rich these days is that if things get really really bad, I fully expect them to rationalize saving themselves at everyone else’s expense. We may be going through just such a scenario now.

              1. God you’re an ungrateful shit.

                1. Thank you Britt for illustrating the difference I was talking about. In the past it was noblesse oblige. Today it’s “you ungrateful shits.”

                  Oh thank you, thank you top 1% for making vastly more money for yourself than anyone else has been able to.

                  1. You should thank them for the tax revenues you so desperately need to fund all of government’s great ideas.

                  2. Tony, you’re an idiot, in addition to being an ungrateful shit. I know children smarter then you. Shit, I know dogs that are smarter then you.

              2. I don’t know who’s doing Tony now, but I gotta hand it to you. You really captured the flavor of the ultra-dense, immune to facts, partisan fuckstain.


        3. Which is pretty much the way opera has always been financed. Back in the “good old days” (at least 100 years ago), opera houses were funded by monarchs, nobles, and wealthy merchants, and for much the same reasons corporations and large donors do so today: Good publicity and getting to see what they wanted to see.

          A less snobbish example would be a wealthy patron building a movie theatre that everyone was invited to buy tickets to attend, however the theater would only play Stallone films because that’s what the patron likes to watch.

    4. How much corporate money would be going to opera if not for the government money?

      1. If the government did not rob as much money from them they would have more money to give away – so more.

    5. Ironic coming from somebody posting on a website supported by advertising $$$.

  9. Paging Sandi…

  10. The only thing I dislike is having to pay more than face value from ticket brokers. I’m taking my girlfriend to see Les Miz and I ended up spending $40 above face value for the cheap seats.

    1. One of the funniest things about subscribing to the Lyric Opera here in Chicago is seeing old, rich white ladies in fur coats standing outside scalping tickets.

  11. If corporate money is tainted, why does govt want so much of it?

    1. To purify it with their purifying goodness.

      1. Not all the money is tainted. They pay the evil portion to the public union employees. It is their saintly goodness that purifies it.

        1. It’s kind of like Sauron’s motivation for trying to recover the Ring. To save the innocent of Middle Earth from the Ring’s evil ability to corrupt.

    2. It’s Yen Buddhism. Money is evil, therefore they will save you from it and take the evil upon themselves. Thus saving you, and condemning themselves.

      1. You mean the government is comprised of Sin-Eaters?

        Suddenly, it all makes sense.

  12. I assume these artists will also refuse sponsorship from ‘destructive states,’ which would narrow their options considerably.

    1. No, oil is bad, murder is ok.

  13. Giuliani’s target wasn’t “Piss Christ,” but rather “Shit Madonna” (or “Cow Chip Madonna”). Let’s not confuse our aesthetic bathroom blasphemies, please.

    1. I thought it was elephant dung, not cowshit.

    2. AV: Thanks. Fixed. Though Sudden is right about the elephant dung.

  14. During the New Labour years, state funding for the arts in Britain was relatively plentiful…

    And we all saw how secure the budget of G.B. was after all those years of profligacy.

  15. If corporate money is evil/corrupt, but tax dollars are good/pure, what about those tax dollars that come from the same corporations and people in their employ?

    Is there some magical transubstantiation power inherent to government that makes those dollars pure as the wind-driven snow?

    1. To a leftist, yes.

      (I hate to sound heavily Team Red on that, but the fact is that leftists see government (except the military) as pure and above sin. Team Blue supporters tend to see the military as above sin but pick and choose for the rest of government according to their cornpone.

  16. It’s probably worth noting that the tax code encourages charitable giving to the arts, especially for larger taxpayers. It changes the calculus, since it effectively makes the charitable contribution cheaper than other forms of advertising. So another motive of taxpayers is not to manipulate art, but to avoid onerous taxation.

    1. To be honest, the ones that I know would donate regardless. Their pay grade is at a level where tax write-off is a pleasant side-effect, not the over-riding incentive. They give because they love the art and want it to continue, and hopefully, grow.

  17. OK that jsut does not make any sense at all dude, none.

    1. God do I love anon-bot.

      1. Shouldn’t a bot have spell check though?

        1. Your human conventions mean nothing to Anon-bot.

  18. Arts organizations, universities, etc that have managed endowments will have part of the money invested in oil stocks, as they are good, long-term, dividend-paying stocks.

    “It seems the guerrilla arts activists haven’t thought that far.” Of course, they don’t think at all.

  19. More important question: Which opera?

    Because it better not be any of that atonal shit the 20s and 30s bizarrely found good.

  20. What’s all this about the EVUL KOCHPORASHUNZZ!!11!! touching people’s taints?

    /Emily Litella

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