Nestled in the verdant Buckinghamshire landscape, Waddesdon Manor is a sight to behold as you marvel at the French château and its garden, which are reminiscent of a Renaissance masterpiece. This splendid home was built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild between 1874 and 1885 as a pastoral getaway to bedazzle the world—and that, it has done marvellously.
A tour of the house will inspire you with the finest artworks, opulent furniture, intricate tapestries, chandeliers, and artefacts. Its collection comprises more than 15,000 works of art and objects, paying particular fondness to 17th-century Dutch landscapes, 18th-century British portraits, Italian sceneries, and French fêtes galantes, and some contemporary pieces.
Under the patronage of the Rothschild Foundation, Waddesdon Manor continues to be a bastion of the arts and attracts thousands of visitors each year to enjoy the public spaces and a suite of exhibitions, open-air concerts, afternoon teas, and seasonal garden tours.
Throughout history, patrons have been affluent and powerful rulers, nobles, clergymen, and merchants, who leveraged the arts to elevate their position in society. Visitors can witness their splurges during visits to museums, galleries, estate homes, and creative cities, where specially commissioned architectural constructions, artworks, furniture items, jewellery pieces, and manuscripts are on display.
The Medici family featured prolific art patrons who influenced the Italian Renaissance during the 15th century. They patronised many works produced by artistic, literary, and architectural luminaries, which are considered as cultural treasures today.
A few grand architectural projects that were commissioned include current cultural attractions in Florence, such as the Uffizi Gallery, Boboli Gardens, Medici Chapel, Palazzo Medici, and Belvedere. The family also supported some of the greatest creatives at the time, such as Sandro Botticelli, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci.
In modern times, a benevolent clique of individuals, foundations, enterprises, and government agencies supports artists through grants, restoration projects, prizes, scholarships, subsidised studio spaces, and commissions. The UAE’s artistic landscape isn’t short of invaluable contributions by patrons. The prestigious Sheikh Zayed Book Award presents Dhs7 million annually to exceptional writers, translators, publishers, and intellectuals, whose works have greatly enriched the society’s cultural experiences.
The Emirates Literature Foundation has been an active supporter of literary and reader development activities, with a fantastic portfolio under its management. Their achievements include the annual Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, school education programmes, book clubs, creative writing courses, and an award for school librarians. Not so far away, the Sharjah Art Foundation works diligently to support artists via grants, residences, studio spaces, and educational, professional development, and community outreach programmes.
“Art is the window to the soul and nurturing creative talent and supporting cultural diversity are at the forefront of our strategy,” says Hala Badri, Director General of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority. “One of Dubai Culture’s pillars is to patronise and support local and UAE-based talent through year-round artistic and cultural events. We also seek to attract creative individuals from around the world to study, live and work in Dubai, as part of our efforts to position the Emirate as a global centre for arts and culture, and a thriving hub for talent.”
“One of Dubai Culture’s pillars is to patronise and support local and UAE-based talent through year-round artistic and cultural events.”
Dubai Culture Director General Hala Badri
At the forefront of the global art patronage movement are the enormous contributions granted by the National Endowment for the Arts, Ford Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Bloomberg Philanthropies. For example, Art Fund is a registered UK charity that raises around £11 million each year, which is then given as a direct grant to museums for purchasing art collections, offering curatorial staff training, and organising exhibitions. It sources funding from corporations, individuals, and grant-making foundations and trusts.
In another instance, the luxury conglomerate LVMH is at the fore of the fashion scene, with an impressive roster of brands such as Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Christian Dior, Bvlgari, and Chaumet. The organisation’s arts and culture philanthropy projects include restoration of historic monuments, bequeathing artworks to museums, funding national art exhibitions, and commissioning special works by contemporary artists.
Patronage of the arts in the 21st century has also moved to the digital sphere, paving the way for arts philanthropy to be a smoother and faster process. For instance, Patreon is an online platform that allows visual artists, writers, podcasters, musicians, and videographers to post regular content while fans, or patrons, pay monthly subscription to access exclusive content.
This supports creatives with recurring income to cover their costs. The platform has managed to garner over 200,000 creators thus far, boasting 6 million active monthly patrons with $2 billion paid out to creators. Among my favourite content creators is Helena Woods, who conceptualises weekly videos themed around slow living and the simple joys of everyday life. She draws inspiration from French joie de vivre and revels in the dreamy, picturesque surroundings of France, where she’s currently based.
Given the immense impact of patrons on the work of creatives, it’s important to garner interest from a wider pool of supporting players. To illustrate, patronage can extend to all kinds of enterprises, such as local cafés commissioning artists to paint murals, hotels purchasing custom-made artworks for properties, and corporations donating a portion of their annual social responsibility budget to supporting local creatives. Media outlets can publish special documentaries on the influence of patronage on society and the art world. Additionally, art dealers can match-make interested patrons and artists via digital platforms.
We have much to thank art patrons for, whose benevolence has gifted humanity with some of the most timeless and subliminal masterpieces.
Sara Al Mulla is an Emirati civil servant with a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature from the University of Roehampton. She can be contacted via Amorelicious.com.