‘There was a time when I would feel guilty asking for money’

The director of the National Gallery, Marina Lambraki-Plaka, stresses the absence of any culture of sponsorship in Greece: «One could argue that there is a skepticism that works against sponsorships. On the one hand, the state only just abolished the taxation law. On the other, the business world may have faced some suspicion when giving money to museums. One fact worth noting is that journalists hardly ever mention the sponsors, as if it’s something to hide. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Culture must understand that it is impossible for a sponsor to cover 100 percent of the cost of an exhibition and that if things are to run smoothly there must be a foundation on which to work. An exhibition takes three years to put together and the sponsorship funds may arrive in the final six months.» Angelos Delivorias, director of the Benaki Museum, says: «There was a time when I would feel guilty asking for money for the museum. I got over it in time because I knew that I was not asking for myself. Securing sponsorship is an incredibly arduous process because here it does not work like it does abroad, where museums have special departments charged with this particular mission. Here, the director must meet with certain people in person, appear in the society columns in the papers, spend hours making and preserving contacts… I think that the state has come to realize just how important sponsorship is and will take the necessary steps to ease the situation.» The issue of sponsorship for the arts is an exceptionally complex one, and the burden of the problems it faces in Greece lies with many parties. The state has an obligation to clearly define the difference between a sponsorship and a donation, to draw up an entirely new framework specifically for sponsorship. It must lift the counterincentives mentioned previously and clear the process of red tape. It must create an operational mechanism that does not deter people or bodies that want to give money to the arts. On their part, museums have to hire personnel who are specialized and experienced in fund raising. Without them, the situation will remain at an amateur level, where fund raising is based on social connections and not on any professional framework that makes the benefits to both parties clear and known. Businesses’ responsibility Even the business world itself is often part of the problem. As author Petros Zounis notes in his book «Cultural Sponsorship as a Form of Communication,» «either Greek businessmen themselves, or their ranking executives, often want to handle the company’s sponsorships based on purely personal criteria (to satisfy social aims, personal aesthetic or artistic tastes, to reciprocate obligations or to do a service to friends or relatives).» For as long as the procurement, provision and receipt of sponsorships is handled in an amateur fashion, Greece’s cultural world will never be able to abandon its dependence on the state. What we need is a drastic makeover at all levels and bold initiatives if the plans of the Ministry of Culture are to bear fruit.