Art and the Twenty-First Century Gift: Corporate Philanthropy and Government Funding in the Cultural Sector

Alexander, Victoria D.. 2014. Art and the Twenty-First Century Gift: Corporate Philanthropy and Government Funding in the Cultural Sector. Anthropological Forum, 24(4), pp. 364-380. ISSN 0066-4677 [Article]

Alexander_ArtCentury_Final_Typescript.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (203kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

Marcel Mauss’s work on the archaic gift contributes to understandings of corporate and government support of arts organisations, or ‘institutional funding’. His approach allows us to see institutional funding as a gift that is embedded in a system of exchange wherein gifts come with a variety of obligations, and self-interest and disinterestedness are inseparable. The institutional gift operates through money and contracts; nevertheless, it entails obligations to give, to receive and to reciprocate. This system of obligations has been joined, in the contemporary institutional gift, by another obligation: the obligation to ask.

Institutional funding of the arts has acquired additional twenty-first century elements. The article elaborates these, using the UK as an example. It also argues that the ambivalence felt by some members of the arts world about institutional funding stems, in large part, from the obligations inherent in the gift. The recent imposition of the neo-liberal model into the arts is an intrinsic part of the exchange between institutional funders and arts organisations. Given that Mauss’s work is strongly anti-liberal and anti-utilitarian, it is ironic that his ideas should prove so useful for understanding a form of twenty-first century gift in which neo-liberalism plays such a crucial role.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


Gift, Art, Arts Institutions, Corporate Philanthropy, Cultural Policy, Government Funding

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Institute for Cultural and Creative Entrepreneurship (ICCE)


22 September 2014Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

12 Apr 2016 14:43

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:16

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)