Patronage Is Still Alive and Well

by Corinna Kirsch on August 4, 2014 Opinion

Sarah Elson, a current-day patron. Photo courtesy of Artsy.

Sarah Elson, a current-day patron. Photo courtesy of Artsy.

Artsy just posted an interview with London-based collector Sarah Elson who’s devised a “residency-cum-homespun exhibition” that’s a “new form of art patronage.” It’s actually just the same model of patronage that’s existed for centuries. Basically, Elson is commissioning artists to make art in her home; this time it has a website (which is under construction). Who knows how that site works, exactly.

Launch Pad was born, an initiative for which Elson invites select overseas artists to respond to a prompt: to use the physical parameters of [her] ground floor mezzanine, atrium, and lower ground areas of her traditional, white-stucco-and-brick Holland Park house, with a minimalist interior renovated by architect Seth Stein, and to address the domestic environment of her family home and collection.

Old-fashioned patronage still exists—whether we want to call it a “residency-cum-homespun exhibition” or any other name. So, let’s just say this new project seems overhyped.

Given the difficulties for artists to make a living, there’s nothing wrong with what she’s doing. It’s just that there’s a royalist aspect to Launch Pad. Further along in the article, it’s mentioned that Elson only invites artists from overseas. That sounds like any royal art collector—maybe like King Charles I, whose close painters were almost exclusively imported from abroad (Anthony van Dyck, Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi, and Peter Paul Rubens, among others). Back then, collecting artists from around the world showed your dominance on an international sphere; for people like Stefan Simchowitz, it might increase your Klout score. Nothing new here.

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