The New Patrons are you.
The New Patrons are you. People who want to give themselves a voice and give form to their own vision. For far too long, only a privileged few could commission an artwork. We want to ensure that everyone can. We bring people together with artists to help them create the kind of art that promotes change and that their communities need and therefore find meaningful. Anyone with ideas can commission an artwork that is just as at home in the patron’s own social setting as it is in a museum. The New Patrons Society makes this possible by helping locals, artists, and other partners realize ambitious projects, from commissioning and funding to final execution.
Where there’s a need for art, whether because it is absent or to effect change, anyone can, alone or with others, approach a mediator and become a patron – someone who both initiates a project and participates in it. Mediators are there to help patrons formulate a commission brief and find a suitable artist to carry it out. The entire process is a dialogue that ends with a finished work.
Mediators are contemporary art experts who assist patrons for the duration of the project. They see to it that patrons and artists have equal voices, while ensuring the quality of the emerging work. They know how to launch and complete a project and properly utilize grant money, whether from public or private sources.
Artists must suit not only the commission but also the patrons. For artists do not simply execute a commission brief; they must engage with and interpret it. They are responsible for determining the form of the artwork, and in doing so must often contend with issues that go beyond those raised by the patrons.
Commissioned works can take any form – music, theater, film, architecture, a sculpture on a public square. Once finished, a work typically belongs to a municipality, an association, a school, or some other public institution. The more convincing the work is for art lovers and experts, the more people will talk and write about it, and the more visitors will come to see it.
Do we need art?
Is art irrelevant or indispensable, a luxury or a necessity? We at the New Patrons are convinced that it’s the latter. And in a democracy, each and everyone should have a say in determining what art we need and why. Perhaps then, art will have value to those who have yet to take an interest in it. For art awakens our imagination and makes us more aware of how things are interconnected. It shapes our ideas about the world and ourselves. Art highlights conflict,
it makes us think, and it points to alternative ways of life. We ask society what it expects – of itself as well as its art – and support artists in the search for new answers.
A new form of artictic production
Giving people from all walks of life the chance to participate in the creation of contemporary art, like so many private and public patrons before them, is a radical shift in cultural policy. The sociologist and philosopher Bruno Latour sees it as the start of a new chapter in art and social history, one in which the population at large becomes the initiator of a democratically representative artistic production. Community members work together with artists as equal partners in the creation of public goods. The process puts cultural participation back on its feet: people no longer merely consume art; they also have the right to procure it – for reasons that they understand best themselves.
In 1990, the artist François Hers wrote the Protocol of the New Patrons. It soon gave rise to a movement in France, which later spread through Europe. Today it’s gone global, and more and more people are joining: curators and urban dwellers, mayors, and artists, young people, academics, and many more. The protocol defined by Hers regulates the roles and responsibilities of everyone who comes together to make an artwork, whatever its form. The protocol is an open-source concept anyone can use who adheres to its rules.
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