New Patrons

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About the New Patrons

New Patrons are people who want to make positive change. They hire artists to develop works of art that propose answers to urgent questions in their city, town, or village.

Architecture, photography, film, painting, theater, sculpture, performance art, literature, design, installation art, landscape art, urban planning, internet, events, music, and much more

With support from mediators, they define what they want from art and initiate projects that articulate what matters to them. In this way, thousands of citizens have lent lasting and conspicuous expression to their ideas and given themselves and their communities a voice.

The process usually starts with open questions: What is important to me? What do I want to change in my immediate environment? Where are my wishes not being heard? What is missing in the settings of my daily life? What are we turning a blind eye to? And how can we come together as a community?

At first blush, none of these concerns necessarily have anything to do with art. Three nurses who think their hospital ward should have a nondenominational prayer room; physicists who wish to visualize the beauty of mathematics; homeless people who envision the ideal shelter; a hundred students who want to build a beach outside their school—any wish and any wishful dream can become a commission. And artists come up with creative answers to even the most unusual briefs.

The journey to that answer starts with you—because the New Patrons, that’s you! Our mediators are here to help you on this journey, taking the time to understand your concerns and staying by your side until the project is completed. They listen carefully, identify an artist who is a good fit for your needs, and then support you as you work directly with the artist. In dialogue with you, he or she translates your idea into a work of art, which will often also come to mean a great deal to many others.

The Gesellschaft der Neuen Auftraggeber provides the logistical infrastructure and supports citizens, artists, and cooperation partners in commissioning, financing, and realizing the projects. The fruits of these collaborative efforts are non-commercial, public, and non-profit cultural assets.

Click here for five example projects.

Some works of art commissioned by New Patrons are actually sculptures installed on market squares. In many other instances, however, the art takes quite unusual forms. From a playground to a newly composed opera, from a redesigned school building to a stage play: a New Patrons work can come in almost any format. It could be a song or a website, a film or a botanical garden. The possibilities are virtually unlimited.

Much can happen along the journey from initial idea to finished work that no one foresaw. People come together who didn’t know each other, exchanging views they had never given voice to. Working with experienced artists breathes fresh life into initiatives, clubs, or communities. A New Patrons project harbors many surprises, and to embark on one is always also to set out for the unknown.

The New Patrons’ active involvement manifests itself in village squares and town-halls, in university cafeterias, youth centers, and jobless people’s hangouts. New Patrons live in rural areas and urban centers, in single-family homes and public housing projects.

And the New Patrons make sure to guard their political independence. Their projects focus on the actual needs of ordinary citizens. No higher authority and no expert tells them which concerns to address, which goals to pursue. Because who would know better than you do what matters to your community? That’s why desires and visions are always articulated locally and in a shared process, ensuring that the new work of contemporary art will also be a valuable contribution to democratic solidarity.

The Protocol

The New Patrons are the brainchild of the French artist François Hers. In 1990, he proposed a new approach that would let citizens and artists see eye to eye as they worked together. Art, he argued, needed to get out of the museum and make its presence felt in people’s everyday lives. His New Patrons Protocol outlines how to go about producing a new art commissioned by citizens. It became the founding document of a Europe-wide and now international movement. More and more people are joining in: museum professionals and villagers, mayors and artists, teenagers, scientists, and many others. When the initiators of a new project first meet, no one knows what the final work will look like—the Protocol specifies the roles and responsibilities of the various sides who come together to create something new.

The Protocol of the New Patrons

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 respond, 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 that it addresses 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