There is giving and then there’s giving. A recent report found that 70 per cent of arts donors are in the low-level category (that’s handing over between £5 and £100) and another 20 per cent are mid-level, giving up to £1,000.
Among the remaining 10 per cent there are some who give whopping gifts. America’s top 50 cultural benefactors gave a total of $10.4 billion (£6.4 billion) in charitable donations in 2011.
Arts organisations around the country rely on such generosity. Ticket sales and government grants simply aren’t enough
Sitting atop the largesse tree was Margaret Cargill, who was responsible for $6 billion of that (the gift in her will set up two foundations to support Native American culture and folk art).
On this side of the Atlantic, though, there is a different culture: we give about half as much in terms of GDP as the US so the figures for Britain were rather less impressive. Arts and culture is the third most popular area for charitable giving (after higher education and international development) but in 2010 donors notched up ‘only’ £350 million.
This year, though, looks better and the wallets are open again.
Who is giving?
Quantifying real sums here is harder since – laudably – many of the big donors want to keep the extent of their giving secret. Some numbers do sneak out, though:
- David Hockney, for example, has recently donated works worth more than £78 million and £760,000 in cash to his charitable foundation.
- Serial givers Dame Vivien Duffield and David, Lord Sainsbury, have handed over £9 million and £198 million respectively.
- Terence Conran has given cash plus the lease of the current Design Museum by the Thames – a total of £17 million – towards the museum’s relocation to Kensington.
- Theresa Sackler and her late husband, Mortimer, have, over the past 20 years, poured money earned from pharmaceuticals into both the visual and performing arts, most notably Dulwich Picture Gallery and the National Gallery but also the Old Vic, Kew Gardens and the Globe. Their money has helped the Serpentine Gallery rise to its current position of eminence and to pay for an architect of the stature – and expense – of Zaha Hadid.
- A few years ago, art dealer Anthony D’Offay gave away his personal collection of paintings by Warhol, Koons, Hirst, Joseph Beuys and more – valued at around £100 million – to the Tate and National Galleries of Scotland so that they could be exhibited in a rolling series of exhibitions around the country (called Artist Rooms) designed to attract new audiences.
Lesser-known art philanthropists
Many other significant donors don’t have such name recognition. For example, Lloyd Dorfman, the founder of the Travelex currency exchange business. Under his subsidised ticket scheme, 1.2 million seats at the National Theatre were sold for between £10 and £12. He also added a hefty £10 million to the theatre’s restoration fund.
The NT is just one of his beneficiaries, though: he personally supports The Royal Opera House, the Southbank, the Royal Court, the Donmar Warehouse, the Royal Ballet School, Sadlers Wells and the Roundhouse with donations too.
Last year, fund manager Jonathan Ruffer paid the Church of England £15 million for its series of paintings of the 13 sons of Jacob by 17th-century Spanish painter Zurbarán. He then promptly returned them so that they could be seen by the public at Auckland Castle in County Durham.
The Tate has also been the recipient of a handsome gift of paintings from Ian Stoutzker, a musician-turned-banker, and his art-loving wife, Mercedes. They gave pictures (including a Hockney, Freud and RB Kitaj) specifically to fills gaps in the Tate’s collection. Ian Stoutzker also handed over £500,000 to the Welsh College of Music and Drama.
Arts organisations around the country rely on such generosity. Ticket sales and government grants simply aren’t enough. They can no longer look to the Arts Council either, now that it has had its budget cut by 30 per cent.
Their howls of outrage are the reason why the Chancellor executed a hasty four-wheel skid of a U-turn with his plan to cap the amount of tax relief on charitable giving.
It’s just as well he did; for everyone from small experimental theatre companies to the National Gallery, it is infinitely better to receive than to give.