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Between Imagined Communities of Practice

Nicolas Adell
Regina F. Bendix
Chiara Bortolotto
et al.

Cultural Values and Community Involvement beyond UNESCO

Patronage and Preservation: Heritage Paradigms and Their Impact on Supporting “Good Culture”

Regina F. Bendix

Texte intégral

Acknowledgments. In the preparation of this contribution, I was assisted by student assistant Nora Kühnert who ably helped with the research on the history of patronage. Many thanks also to the co-editors of this volume for their critical feedback.

1 Introduction

1UNESCO’s effort to empower communities focuses on heritage holders. In emphasizing the need to involve such communities in heritage nominations, UNESCO latently draws attention to what I will loosely and wrongly call communities of patrons – that is, individuals and groups who spearhead preservationist endeavors. They are, of course, generally not acting as a community, but are driven rather by a complex mixture of ideological, social, and economic motivations. Numerous case studies illustrate how it is individual actors or actor groups from within and/or without a community, who find a particular type of heritage worthy of preservation and who set in motion a nomination process. Such actors serve as patrons or intermediaries for a community, assisting with the work of getting a particular heritage onto the world stage – a task which generally requires considerable resources. The term patron, in turn, provides a means to link the heritage-complex with the broader framework of sponsoring culture and the arts. Patronage is an interventionist practice – much as heritage-making, and with it UNESCO, though economically quite impotent, is a well positioned and globally recognizable icon that can alert financially mightier patrons to the goals of preservation. Patronage has a long history that helps to place the valorization processes at the heart of heritage making within a broader context: the interdependence of (not only) financial support, and the socio-cultural transformation of culture’s value.

  • 1 On the interplay of cultural valorization and valuation, cf. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 2006; on the int (...)

2Sponsorship of arts and cultural expressions is by necessity selective and has thus brought forth and solidified hierarchies in what is considered “good culture” within a polity. It is worth asking how such mechanisms of selecting and supporting cultural practices and products are affected by the heritage regime: How do older, established regimes of cultural valorization figure in the present?1 Heritage dynamics thus encourage one to ask what causes, motivates, and legitimates bestowing value on a spectrum of cultural expressions: How do broader sociopolitical and spatial shifts contribute to slow but perceptible changes in seemingly firmly established systems of valorization? Although the heritage regime fosters exclusivity – as not all nominations can be successful – heritage making on the global level, as initiated by UNESCO, has brought some confusion or, more neutrally put, movement into historically established canons from so called high to vernacular arts. This may – as is suggested in the following – contribute to a successive flattening of distinctions based on aesthetic hierarchies so typical of earlier eras of what James Clifford has termed the “art-culture system,” in and out of which indigenous arts, too, may travel (Clifford 1988: 224). The heritage regime renders cultural expressions globally into a kind of “aesthetic commons” that encompasses all social groups. While emphasizing community provenience, it temporarily flattens distinctions of class, ethnicity and wealth out of which localized scales ranging from the vernacular to high art articulate(d) themselves. Heritage-eats-the-arts-system or heritage-levels-the-playing-field might be a description for the dynamic of support and sponsorship of expressive forms that motivated particularly the 2003 Convention honoring Intangible Cultural Heritage. UNESCO’s heritage division is, after all, an effort not just to valorize but also to democratize the appreciation of world arts. This equalizing thrust in recognition brings about a seeming randomness in the politics and sponsorship of aesthetic taste – though perhaps randomness, chance, or luck were variables in how patronage of the arts came about in earlier times as well.

  • 2 For critical assessments of the terms group and community, consider Noyes 2003 and 2006. Cf. also t (...)

3Heritage regimes in their ever more comprehensive anchoring are a particularly suitable place to reflect on how culture, associated with what UNESCO terms communities, accrues value. Community can refer to many different types of social groupings that actively practice or generate such culture at a particular moment in history.2 As a complex and costly administrative endeavor, UNESCO’s various heritage lists assemble excerpts of culture, intangible and rendered tangible, that may have been valued at particular times with terms such as courtly culture or high culture, folk or traditional or ethnic culture, and popular culture. Indeed, the nomination texts posted by UNESCO will often use such adjectives to refer to the “community” among whom a particular heritage circulates:

  • 3 All quotes were culled from the Lists of States Parties on the website of UNESCO Culture Sector – I (...)

4The royal ballet of Cambodia, inscribed in 2008, “has been closely associated with the Khmer court for over one thousand years.” Inscribed in the same year, Guatemala’s Rabinal Achí dance drama tradition “is a dynastic Maya drama which developed in the fifteenth century and a rare example of preserved pre-Hispanic traditions.” Chovqan, a traditional horse-riding game in Azerbaijan, was inscribed in 2013 for its strengthening of “feelings of identity rooted in nomadic culture.”3 From royal and dynastic to nomadic: More such examples could easily be found in successful as well as failed nomination dossiers. They illustrate location-specific connotations of culture valued for its group or class association.

5The world-wide exhibition platform that is constituted by UNESCO’s lists broadens the privileges – or lack thereof – associated with cultural manifestations in a given local, historically circumscribed setting with the label “of universal value.” Valdimar Hafstein traces in the instrument of heritage lists a transformation from exceptionality – as captured in the earlier UNESCO designation “master piece” – to a representation where all that is inscribed on the list is equally valuable, equally beautiful, equally appreciated (Hafstein 2009: 102–104). The selection process also involves regional, national and finally global competition, and one could argue that the winners and losers in this process bring forth new hierarchies (Bendix, Eggert, and Peselmann 2013: 18). However, the competition is informed by rules and disciplined by concrete as well as diffuse guidelines, generating new value-setting practices and an extensive paper trail (cf. also De Cesari 2010). Together, this makes for a pedagogy of how to value culture and one can thus equally well perceive UNESCO’s heritage making as a training ground for equalizing appreciation, restoration and conservation of culture.

6In the actual settings of cultural practice, the re-valorizing processes commence as part of the heritage nomination and continue with successful inscriptions or placements on the heritage list. Whether it be safeguarding, protecting or even shielding from view, exhibiting, marketing or a combination of some of the above, claiming and keeping heritage status carries a cost. Public and private sponsoring or patronage is thus essential to maintain the goals set out in a nomination file – and the question is how public institutions and private donors make up their mind regarding the financial support of heritage initiatives next to countless other local, regional and national art and culture initiatives requesting funds to preserve, maintain and/or to innovate aesthetic expressions.

7In this chapter, I am interested in the power of sponsorship or patronage in shaping the value of selected cultural practices and objects and thus seek to place the dynamics of heritage valuation and valorization into the broader framework of funding arts and culture. Value is measured idealistically and ideologically, and social as well as aesthetic, moral and political contexts and convictions contribute to value judgments. But within a marketplace where such value has to endure, there is the need for capital – hence sponsorship or patronage. I begin with two examples illustrating what I term diversifying of value distinctions: Markets for art and entertainment as well as consumers contribute to a shift in the distinctions of high and low, arcane and popular cultures. From there I will turn to a brief characterization of patronage’s history. These first two sections provide a basis for assessing the breadth of actors and groups seeking sponsorship and the mechanisms at play to assess value and decide for allocating funds. The contribution then concludes with observations on the heritage regime’s potential impact on communities of sponsors.

2 Diversifying Value Scales: Two Examples

  • 4 “Die Unesco schützt jetzt auch noch die französische Küche. Vielleicht sollte unser Leben insgesamt (...)
  • 5 Cf. the catalogue site: <accessed January 15, 2014
  • 6 The scholarship on this history is legion, some of it can be grouped with the anxieties of modernit (...)

8After UNESCO’s decision to welcome the “Gastronomic Meal of the French” onto the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010, the German weekly Die Zeit published this headline: “The World as Museum”; the subtitle read as follows: “UNESCO now also protects French cuisine. Perhaps our life in its totality should become world cultural heritage?”4 Journalist Ijoma Mangold observed with some irony how nations and communities eagerly construct lists from healing knowledge and art to endangered dialects. To him, the bureaucratic ministrations of UNESCO transformed “everything that makes life worth living” and all things that “have their own dignity” into a big mail-order catalogue at the ratio of 1:1. Mangold invoked the catalogue distributed by Manufactum, a German mail-order business carrying the slogan “they are still available, the good old things.”5 He connects heritage making with marketing cultural expressions to those with both upper class tastes and a hankering for things traditional and handmade. Upper class fascination with the handmade and traditional has, of course, a thick history since the 19th century. It has contributed to the foundation of museums and academic disciplines preoccupied with documenting and collecting the “old way of life,”6 and is intertwined with earlier regimes of cultural protection (Bendix, Eggert and Peselmann 2013: 17–18). Bauman and Briggs (2003) have rightly argued that in the effort to point to folk and later ethnic difference, elite discourse has contributed to and solidified social and political inequality. Journalist Mangold, however, points to perceptible changes: The selection of difference from folk to ethnic to indigenous, marginal, aboriginal, subcultural and so forth has gotten so broad, that the categories congeal into a vast sameness. Mangold is perhaps not just frustrated with the stranglehold of the heritage paradigm, but with the shifting ground of distinctions and the lack of clarity as to who has the authority, standing and expertise to make pronouncements over canons of cultural expressions.

  • 7 The New Yorker, April 14, 2014, p. 54, cartoon by Walsh.

9A second example is manifest in movie theaters all over the world. For the past few years, New York’s Metropolitan Opera has offered live broadcasts of its performances in movie theaters. In the case of the German midsize city Göttingen, a ticket costs between 29 and 35 Euros per showing, a wardrobe service is provided (but of course not for the movies that show simultaneously in this cinema complex). During the intermission, champagne and wine, juice and fresh pretzels are on offer for the opera viewers who can, of course, also amble further down the hall and purchase popcorn, ice cream and soda. A cartoon in the New Yorker captured the hybridization of entertainments and associated foods perfectly: A hotdog seller marches through the rows of seats during an opera performance, and one of the viewers says to his female companion: “There’s no frank like an opera frank.”7 The hotdog is making its way from the sports stadium to the plush theater, the opera is spreading into the palace of popcorn. What once was a clear movement up and down the social ladder appears more like an ever more exchangeable smorgasbord of choices.

  • 8 I will not pursue here Theodor Adorno’s arguments regarding culture and value, tied into his critiq (...)

10Based on empirical evidence from the late 1950s and 60s, Pierre Bourdieu (1984) asserted a clear association of taste and lifestyle with economic, cultural and social capital. In the intervening decades, economic disparities may have grown larger, but cultural taste may no longer be a means to measure them. In the course of the past years, other beleaguered concert halls and symphonies, as well as ballet companies and even museums have taken to offer shows via movie theaters. They seek to broaden their audience and earnings, but they also fight to maintain a place among the plethora of entertainments available across media and screens ranging from television to computers, tablets and cell phones. Live broadcasts have been part and parcel of radio programs practically since the first radios were developed, and a further line of argument could be introduced here on the role of mass media and media technology in bringing about a globalized, perhaps more democratic appreciation of the arts and a corresponding lessening of the hold of historically grown canons of high culture.8 Here, I will stay with the role sponsorship plays in the overall dynamic of establishing and shifting values accorded to cultural expressions.

  • 9 This is not to say that operas and particularly operettas were not also appreciated by other social (...)

11I used the example of opera to illustrate how an art form born of royal patronage and up to the early 20th century firmly entrenched in upper class taste – along with ballet and art museums a key example of high culture – raises revenue in the palaces of popular culture.9 Even the patrons and sponsors of the capitalist era – oil and car companies – are not giving sufficiently to maintain the art form. Apparently, the community of patrons has had increasing reason to give not simply to individual artists or institutions but to the preservation of all kinds of heritages. In the process high cultural art forms such as opera and ballet mutate increasingly into endangered heritage – historically grounded art forms in search of resources and audiences.

  • 10 Italian opera singers are presently collecting signatures to nominate Italian Lyric Opera on the UN (...)

12These two quite different examples offer opportunity to reflect on what kinds of broader political and economic transformations might be discernible in the overwhelming drive to select and protect that is evident in the heritage dynamic. Aesthetic productions such as opera and ballet could once rely on patrons; heritage making is one among several forces that pushes these elite arts to seek alternate forms of economic support and to participate simultaneously in the competition for patrimonial status.10 In most states, the public budget for “arts and culture” is small to vanishing from the federal down to regional and local levels. Work and social services, defense, traffic, public works and urban development, health, education and research are the top items in a state budget; the arts always have to seek private support to be able to sustain themselves. A category such as heritage brings further competition as well as confusion: Actors can appeal to artistic, enriching qualities in their support of heritage both in its material and immaterial guise. In addition, however, they can invoke the significance of regional, national and global reach and thus emphasize the political relevance of nominating and maintaining heritage, and both are costly. Heritage promoters thus increase the competition for scarce public and volatile private sponsorship.

3 Patronage – its Impact on Aesthetic Value and Taste

13Gaius Cilnius Maecenas lived in the first century B.C. and was simultaneously so prominent as advisor to Augustus and as a sponsor of the arts that his name has become a technical term for private sponsorship to this date. He extended patronage to young artists such as Vergil or Horace, and given his political association, such patronage also offered a certain degree of closeness to the ruling class. Lorenzo I. di Medici, unfolding his power in the second half of the 15th century, combined indirect influence or sponsorship in politics with patronage of artists. During his time, artists such as Leonardo da Vinci gave to Florence of their skill and vision. The flourishing of the arts through the Medici court has received art historical attention early on – not least because of the republican rather than monarchical political base (Thomas 2000). Examining Giotto’s life and work two centuries prior, Julian Gardner (2011) recognizes in the painter’s work evidence of the interaction between Giotto and different sets of patrons he served.

  • 11 Cf. e.g. Oevermann, Süßmann and Tauber (2007).
  • 12 Tim Edensor’s study of tourism at the Taj Mahal would certainly confirm this (1998); Davis and Marv (...)

14One could mention countless other cases where through the patronage of architects, sculptors, musicians, ballet masters and so forth a shaping took place of the built environment, artistic performance traditions and the public sphere as it is marked by artistry at large.11 The power of patrons to imprint their aesthetic preferences on a given socio-spatial realm accounts for the emergence of Culture with capital-C and for the long lasting distinctions between high and low arts. The intermeshing of artists and patrons was recognized already in the 19th century as an important area of study, when scholars called for systematic attention to how tastes in art and architecture took shape through the will and resources of patrons (McDonald 1973: 1). There was always a considerable impact on communities through the predilections of individual patrons. The cityscapes of Florence and Agra, Bangkok and Sydney would not be the same without the influential resources and tastes of particular patrons and investors. In an extension of UNESCO language, one could argue that generations of inhabitants of such cities have been enculturated into specific spatial-artistic experiences and continue to live also with the economic opportunities deriving from the relationships of medieval to early modern, colonial to postcolonial patrons and their preferred artists.12

15Earlier histories of patronage often focus on particular individuals and eras, intrigued by the power and importance of collecting, especially during times before there were museums and “systematic state-based custodianship of art” (Sachs 1971: 9). Individual patrons occasionally had close relationships to individual artists and in the process gave opportunity to the unfolding of a given artist’s creativity, a pattern well established for medieval court poets encouraged to praise their benefactors’ deeds (Burgess 1981). What is most relevant, though, for establishing a comparative view from earlier forms of patronage to present day mixtures of patrons, sponsors, and public support, is insight into the socio-political dynamic that engenders the flowering of particular types of arts and culture. In his scrutiny of cases of medieval literary patronage, William C. McDonald concludes that “one of the most important forms patronage may take is the creation of an atmosphere conducive to a literary flowering. This may be a time of relative calm […], but can also be an era of struggle and feverish political activity” (1973: 193). As of the second half of the 20th century, we have been living in an atmosphere conducive to “heritage flowering” with UNESCO mobilizing rhetorical conviction to engender public and private support to nominate, protect and preserve.

  • 13 Pielhoff works with sociologist Axel Honneth’s theory of recognition; cf. Stefan Groth’s contributi (...)

16Studies scrutinizing particular patronage cases from early modernity up to the 20th century find an increase in the intertwining of individual patrons and state or communal leadership in the channeling of donations for aesthetic projects. Representatives of a growing bourgeoisie, for instance in Germany, formed art associations and founded museums; they engaged jointly and for the benefit of civil society in sponsorship – which simultaneously also enhanced their personal status (Frey 1999). Stephen Pielhoff goes as far as to accord the most powerful role to intermediaries – individuals who convinced potential patrons to bestow gifts particularly for urban architectural and monumental projects; here, the recognition bestowed on artists through patronage found its parallel in the recognition sought by patrons for their gifts to civil society (2007: 29).13 Pielhoff’s attention to historical and political contexts helps to account not just for successes and failures in urban aesthetic projects, but also for different models in the negotiation and mixing of private patronage and public resources that emerges ever more strongly in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the course of time, legal parameters further shaped and limited not just the extent of giving but also constrained individual patrons in exerting their taste and might (Mai and Paret 1993).

17This dynamic, of course, concerns primarily tangible artifacts, but I would argue that the long history of living amongst buildings and sculptures generated in feudal and monarchical systems brought forth intangible sentiment, a sense of appreciation which would be necessary to extend the impact of private patronage into public preservation and restoration. The passage from a monarchical to a bourgeois-capitalist system also gave little time for reflection on what it means to preserve structures built through agents of former regimes. The bourgeois artistic taste seamlessly incorporated layers of older aesthetics. Communism broke this lineage, and did not accept past capital-C Culture as natural heritage. The horror that Western states felt at the destruction of tsarist and Christian orthodox edifices and arts during the Soviet era exemplifies, however, some of the taken for granted heritage status of such works; the destruction of many Soviet-era sculptures and edifices post 1989 in turn spells out the displeasure at state-sponsored, communist art and heritage construction and affirms the apparent attraction of noncommunal, patronage-sponsored artistry within the capitalist realm.

  • 14 Not enough is known of what was dismantled in Maoist China, and China at present is restoring or re (...)

18A peculiar case in point is the long discussion in reunited Berlin regarding the reconstruction of the city castle, damaged during WWII, torn down during the GDR era where instead the Palace of the Republic was erected, a communist administrative building which was in turn torn down in 2007–2008 and now the city plans to reconstruct the castle – a discursive battle that was analyzed trenchantly by Beate Binder (2009).14

  • 15 And, not to forget, a first impetus to imitate and then preserve folk housing came from the aristoc (...)

19This brief historical sketch aimed to illustrate how preservation and protection firmed up incrementally to become a further goal for sponsorship or patronage. The preservationist impulse began with the maintenance of material culture of the upper classes, before it turned toward the preservation of folk culture through the efforts of homeland protection associations, the founding of open air museums and similar initiatives.15 As the value of past cultural manifestations increased, patrons had more opportunities to decide which aesthetic forms they wished to support: those representing the creativity and aesthetics of the past or those of the present and future. Naturally, this was the result of major shifts in political systems; still, one might give some thought to understand why preservation is so powerful an impulse within democracies, why democratic citizenries are eager to maintain, indeed pay for the maintenance of the splendors of their former suppressors (cf. Bendix 2000).

20If patrons were once publicly known, individual actors putting their imprint on a city or region, at present we face a more complex structuring of the financing of the arts. On the one hand, artists are expected to prove themselves in the market for creative goods. On the other hand there are also generally limited public funds as well as foundations engaged in more or less competitive ways of selecting whom and what they will support. But there are also still patrons, ranging from individuals to institutions such as banks or industries that bestow some of their capital on the arts, potentially profiting in the process also from a tax write-off (or forming a tax-exempt foundation for this very purpose). Artists in turn may opt to form associations that accept charitable donations – granting the donors tax write-offs for their generosity. There are thus certainly more actors involved in supporting and shaping a public sphere of art, as well as more democratic possibilities for individuals of widely divergent income and social status to participate in such sponsorship. Patronage can safely be called a cultural practice, and research on shifts in art patronage, sponsorship and investment both historically and comparatively across the globe would seem to be an open field. It would certainly assist in understanding the place that safeguarding heritage occupies within this dynamic. It would also clarify the shifts in communities of patrons over time and from local to global settings and networks.

4 Growing Choices for Sponsorship

  • 16 Pierre Bourdieu offered a reading of class based art appreciation in his The Love of Art from 1969 (...)
  • 17 Industrialization has brought forth mass produced art forms which added further complexity to the d (...)

21The documentation and preservation of a cultural category such as Intangible Cultural Heritage offers opportunities for patronage or sponsorship beyond historically established and continually practiced types of arts. Heritage has been added into the spectrum of what is considered “valuable culture” and hence also culture worthy of investment. In English language discourse, highly valued art forms have been referred to, as stated above, as Culture with a big C, tracing their provenience often to royal courts and accruing value not least from a long history of upper class or bourgeois appreciation in contrast to vernacular, lower class arts.16 As public financial support for cultural activity through taxation has been notoriously low, the need to find patrons or sponsors has always been present.17

22There were, not least due to the forces of nation building, also some resources flowing into preservation of folk and ethnic culture. But comparing the private and public funds flowing into Culture through the building, for instance, of museums and collections, national theaters and opera houses, to the resources available for the preservation of culture with a small c, the tip of the scales was on the side of Culture – not least because small-c culture was considered to be just there, it had not yet become a marked and market category; if anything, small-c culture was for a long time considered vile and unrefined, something to be eradicated or improved upon. In the late 19th century, but particularly as of the second half of the 20th century there were and are more resources flowing into vernacular cultures. We know the reasons for this, and need not dwell on them extensively here: They range from decolonization and postcolonial claims, as well as global migration and heterogenization supported by what Jean-Louis Tornatore has called “Anthropology’s Payback” (2013). What is of interest to me here is the distribution of financial resources resulting from the shifting motivation of actors. They range from individual patrons to local institutions, nation states and international organizations and have to deliberate where their limited funds should best go in the broad expanses of culture and Culture.

23To put the argument into a schematic and thus overstated form: Throughout early modernity, patronage defined, remained with and thus solidified Culture. With the rise of national interest in preserving remnants of the vernacular past there is also support for initiatives in the realm of culture.

24Behind this there are ideological shifts that would require further elaboration. Roughly stated, one might argue that there are three overlapping eras of patronage: A medieval to early modern paradigm utilized the aesthetic power of the arts as an imprimatur for a particular political reign or court. Artistic skill and innovation thus received patronage. During an early nationalist paradigm, there was also support for the protection from innovation: The continuity and presumed lack of change in folk and ethnic traditions was considered a powerful resource for the growing idea of the nation state and thus worthy of sponsorship. This brought about a split of expenditures between the continued patronage of innovative, skilled, individual genius and more state-sponsored support to preserve and protect worthy cultural forms. A late modern paradigm, finally, sees all aesthetic expressions as a resource and provides support depending on what the sociopolitical goal of patrons and creators might be. Economically, we have arrived at this heterogeneous stage, but politically, this is in most cases not what can be expressed openly.

25What is the impact of such shifts in sponsorship needs? I would argue that practices that once were constitutive of Culture, prestigious and innovative, find themselves successively integrated in the spectrum of practices requiring preservation. Expressive forms such as opera and ballet – not least through the global comparison enabled by UNESCO lists – have in the course of time become “traditional” much like the Cambodian royal ballet or the Peking opera (both on the Intangible Heritage List). Formerly sacrosanct, these arts now have to compete ever more in the broader sponsorship market, as the competition from the realm of small-c culture has grown enormously. Patronage – or individual sponsorship – remains important, but potential patrons have various options. They may gain prestige from sponsoring creativity, art, or aesthetic innovation, but they may also be inclined to let their resources flow into preservation, in order to participate where the action is. Patrons enable others, but their patronage reflects back on themselves and provides them with social and political capital.

26Under the UNESCO mantle, heritage listings have become an arena of high prestige, and they are one among many factors contributing to the multiplication of cultures vying for both valuation and valorization (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 2006: 189–191). Whether folk or ethnic, tribal, indigenous or fusion, outsider art or classic Western high arts: They all need state and private support, they all work in one way or another with the market. Within this global dynamic, a continued separation into low and high arts and low and high cultural creativity would appear misguided – if it were not for the power of historically established discourses of value. Aesthetic practices emerge(d) within a given time and place as well as social context, and of course there are experts able to identify, date and historically contextualize a given craft or practice. It is such expert and/or old and new political discourses coupled with issues of abundance and scarcity that regulate the value of aesthetic practices. What has changed, however, is the number of communities and associated experts seeking support, be this public funds or private patronage.

  • 18 Pierre Bourdieu’s empirical study (1984) deconstructed aesthetic taste and its enduring power to ex (...)

27The increase of expenditure for preservation is fostered and accompanied by a legitimating discourse. A habitualized bourgeois aesthetic taste for Culture has been joined by taste regimes encouraging the preservation and maintenance of small-c cultures of folk, ethnic, tribal, and indigenous communities and histories.18 The intent of such burgeoning discourses is to democratize value criteria – and by extension the access to sponsorship. The multiplicity of claims brings with it – naturally – governance efforts which in turn generate bureaucracy and hierarchy. This is particularly visible in the heritage field, where actors seeking to compile a nomination dossier confront the need to confirm and document – drawing on certified expertise – every criterion that supports an item’s value. Yet similar mechanisms are visible in any city council that needs to deliberate which arts initiatives are deserving of a bit of the already small budget set aside for arts and culture.

28Heritage regimes, I would argue, tell us a great deal about the shifting value of culture, particularly its tangible and intangible aesthetic dimensions. But I would also argue that understanding heritage regimes within the broader complex of cultural sponsorship and within the history of patronage elucidates the resource nature of culture.

5 Conclusion: Actors, Resources, Impact

  • 19 The newest form of (not only) arts and culture sponsorship is “crowd funding;” it emerged in the fi (...)

29Placing the sponsoring of heritage preservation within the broader matrix of cultural sponsorship allows one to see the resource nature of culture particularly well. If we look at the history of patronage and sponsorship, we see the continued entanglement of aesthetic, political and economic value potential. To accumulate value and unfold impact, the resource requires sponsorship. Over time, there have been differently composed communities of patrons recognizing the power of this resource in shaping a polity. It is a community that is linked at best through competition: Individual patrons or sponsors recognize each other’s financial and political position and their respective capacity to have an impact on the artistic public sphere.19 Again, we can note that heritage-making is but one kind of selection and certification process within this arena of cultural resource development and preservation, but we ought to ask why it is appealing today and attracting many patrons.

30Among heritage patrons, UNESCO is certainly the most prominent, although not the most economically potent – UNESCO can funnel sponsors but is itself an under-endowed agency. Patronage is an interventionist practice – but its goals are not always so clear cut, as aesthetic appeal and the relationship between patron and client mix with the political potential of works of architecture and art.

31Crucial to reflect for both UNESCO and for heritage specialists on the ground is the fact that heritage policies are embedded in the broader practices of cultural sponsorship. These have a history, both local and national, individual and global.

32The impact of UNESCO’s heritage interventions ought to be reflected further within these parameters. Sponsoring and protecting are twin engines in generating cultural value. While it is groups, communities or entire polities that may come to share and traditionalize such values in the course of a given local history, there are communities of patrons, overlapping with or separate from those sharing in such cultural resources that have and continue to play a major role in bringing about and/or preserving such cultural flowering. With all its efforts to coordinate and democratize this process, UNESCO is nonetheless also dependent on the patronage-dynamic on the local and state level. What benefits do heritage investors reap vis-à-vis patrons of performing arts or sponsors of literature festivals? What established and which newly created policies are there in a given state that encourages patronage and ease tax burdens? Questions such as these are important to pursue not least because they integrate heritage in a broader socio-economic and political matrix of bestowing value on particular aspects of culture.



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1 On the interplay of cultural valorization and valuation, cf. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 2006; on the interface of old and new cultural protection regimes, cf. Tauschek 2013.

2 For critical assessments of the terms group and community, consider Noyes 2003 and 2006. Cf. also the contribution of Ellen Hertz in this volume.

3 All quotes were culled from the Lists of States Parties on the website of UNESCO Culture Sector – Intangible Heritage:;pg=00559 <accessed January 11, 2014>.

4 “Die Unesco schützt jetzt auch noch die französische Küche. Vielleicht sollte unser Leben insgesamt Weltkulturerbe werden?” Ijorna Mangold: “Die Welt als Museum”, 27.11.2010: <accessed January 15, 2014>.

5 Cf. the catalogue site: <accessed January 15, 2014

6 The scholarship on this history is legion, some of it can be grouped with the anxieties of modernity and the discourses on folklore and authenticity (Bendix 1997); other components involve what Robert Cantwell has termed “ethnomimesis” as that which is at work in preserving and staging the purported folk (1993).

7 The New Yorker, April 14, 2014, p. 54, cartoon by Walsh.

8 I will not pursue here Theodor Adorno’s arguments regarding culture and value, tied into his critique of the culture industry (e.g. 1963), nor the efforts within popular culture studies and media studies, to clarify the distinctions between taste and value cultures (e.g. Hecken 2012). But clearly, the creative industries’ interests and the interests transported through patronage are ever more difficult to disentangle.

9 This is not to say that operas and particularly operettas were not also appreciated by other social classes – the very presence of cheaper seating and standing room viewing options, albeit far above the stage and hence making it hard to see details of decor and dress, reminds of the appeal of the form. The social dynamic of opera and operetta appreciation is quite complex and needs to be considered within the specifics of historical contexts which in turn assists in understanding the decline of audience numbers (Honigsheim 1979: 91–95; cf. also Csáki 1998).

10 Italian opera singers are presently collecting signatures to nominate Italian Lyric Opera on the UNESCO list: <accessed August 11, 2014>.

11 Cf. e.g. Oevermann, Süßmann and Tauber (2007).

12 Tim Edensor’s study of tourism at the Taj Mahal would certainly confirm this (1998); Davis and Marvin’s assessment of Venitian tourism is more differentiated but also invokes this dimension (2004).

13 Pielhoff works with sociologist Axel Honneth’s theory of recognition; cf. Stefan Groth’s contribution in this volume for an application of this theory in the heritage dynamic.

14 Not enough is known of what was dismantled in Maoist China, and China at present is restoring or reconstructing some structures in order to participate in the opportunities and the prestige presented by heritage lists. Caroline Bodolec’s contribution at the last of our three Vigoni workshops presented a number of case studies on this; unfortunately she was not able to prepare a chapter for this volume.

15 And, not to forget, a first impetus to imitate and then preserve folk housing came from the aristocracy as well, with the Hameau de la Reine, a village imitation built next to Versailles and given the Marie Antoinette in 1774 as a place to relax from courtly norms.

16 Pierre Bourdieu offered a reading of class based art appreciation in his The Love of Art from 1969 (1991). In German, one refers to the segment of valued cultural expressions ranging from literature to all the arts as Kultur – and entailed in this is furthermore the assumption that such high culture also denotes the desirable refinements within civil society and introducing anthropological dimensions of the culture concept is thus all the more complex (Lindner 2003).

17 Industrialization has brought forth mass produced art forms which added further complexity to the discourses on culture and value. The present chapter touches at best marginally on the role and debates about mass or popular culture, not least because their commercial base does not require patronage. However, as popular culture ages, it of course also enters into historicizing value practices, generates museum exhibits and the like and thus is indeed also vying for funds from the limited pool of resources for “arts and culture.” Recent research has sought to rectify earlier critiques of mass culture as a capitalist means of flattening taste and dumbing down of helpless consumers. Kaspar Maase has carefully examined the politics of taste and class that contributed to scales of value (Maase 2001, 2011). Research on the popular, in particular popular seriality, has convincingly focused on active reception of popular art forms and hence enabled a view onto creative processes and how they are valued in the intersection of commercial and vernacular practices (Jenkins 1992, 2006; Kelleter 2012).

18 Pierre Bourdieu’s empirical study (1984) deconstructed aesthetic taste and its enduring power to express and enact distinction between social classes; while the study has not put an end to such distinction, its transfer in bits and pieces into the public sphere likely has contributed to the increase in aesthetic cultures asserting their claims for broader acceptance.

19 The newest form of (not only) arts and culture sponsorship is “crowd funding;” it emerged in the first decade of the 21st century as an internet-based form of raising funds for initiatives, competing with other worthy endeavors to attract patrons. There is already a huge diversity of crowd funding mechanisms, ranging from kickstarter to credit-based to philanthropic versions (cf. Dresner 2014).


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