First support for artistic research
in public space
As part of its purpose, the Fondation de France is intended to explore social issues which require better inclusion in all fields, such as education, health, solidarity, the environment and ecology and culture. In this latter area, the Fondation, conscious of its position in the vanguard of research and experimentation, has chosen, quite logically, creation and art. Adopting a dual approach to this commitment, it decided to encourage and support art commissions from civil society, while simultaneously taking action to research the role of art in societies throughout history and contemporary cultural issues. So it was that in 1991, taking full responsibility for the risks inherent in the innovation, it chose to implement the Protocol of New Patrons, designed by artist François Hers.
Choosing this mode of action has proved decisive, giving the Fondation de France a non-prescriptive dimension, not asserting the authority generally enjoyed by people and organisations which hold the purse-strings, but rather that of a genuine mediator. It did not in fact just content itself with consulting the recipients of its funding or sending invitations to participate in the initiatives it had chosen. It turned the situation on its head and offered people who wished to have the means to commission art themselves, by directly commissioning artists, using methods which enabled them to assume the responsibility. By deciding to act in this way in the cultural field, the Fondation de France remains faithful to the way it re-distributes its donors’ funding in all fields.
This grassroots implementation could not have been achieved without the commitment of a network of independent cultural mediators-producers. It is thanks to the knowledge and skills which they bring that any person, as an individual or part of a collective approach, may take the initiative from any location. This operating procedure not only allows the expression and confirmation of art’s raisons d’être, but also of working together as part of shared equal responsibility among all stakeholders involved, particularly with artists who can directly take into account the expressed creative requirements, whether they are visual artists, architects, musicians, writers, directors etc.
“The New Patrons revealed the ability of civil society to fully assume its responsibilities in the development of a culture which bears the risks of creation”
To date, more than five hundred commissions completed or in progress demonstrate the relevance of this mode of action, not only in France but also in Europe and recently in Africa. These New Patrons revealed the ability of civil society to fully assume its responsibilities in the development of a culture which bears the risks of creation. This action also shows that a democratic exercise can be provided which goes further than the consultation stage or offering participation which canvasses opinions but does not offer the capacity to decide and be involved.
The fact remains that one cannot be involved in “doing” without developing a capacity of critical analysis about the current cultural situation and the deeds of which it is made; finding the words to make the work readable and intelligible, transmit it and constitute a collective intelligence. We must find new criteria for assessing and judging an action which gives our creative capacity a sense of community which is as powerful today as that which has driven it for six centuries. We must now write the next chapter of this history which we called modern and of which we are the heirs.