Lunch at the Caixaforum in Madrid. October 2014. “We have failed”, laconically acknowledged Leopoldo Rodés (1934-2015), president of the ‘la Caixa’ Art and Patronage Foundation, a body created to pressure governments to reform the Patronage Law. They claimed that by making it much more palatable, private money would land on the shores of culture, a precarious island. Rodés had lost all hope after listening to the Prime Minister and his Finance Minister, Cristóbal Montoro.
Mariano Rajoy once went to the Prado Museum and, in front of the businessman Várez Fisa who had just donated 12 medieval and Renaissance pieces, said: “The patron does not expect anything in return”. The Prado dedicated one of the rooms to the donor and, at the same time, the president clarified to the country that there would be no tax benefits for the generous ones who contributed to public culture. When his party became president, he had the brilliant idea of ending public aid and waiting to see how money from companies would take his place. You can already imagine the result. Dramatic. In four years they withdrew more than 300 million euros of investment in cultural development and did not create the instrument that was going to attract the money: a new Patronage Law.
In 2022, the cultural industries continue to see how the money from large companies avoids them and goes to the accounts of social aid initiatives.
Two weeks ago, President Pedro Sánchez announced the approval of that long-awaited Patronage Law, which would reform the current 2002 regulations. So that it does not remain in the ad drawer, they should have it approved in less than a year. It is a measure that governments traditionally announce on the verge of the end of the legislature. If it happens that this time it does, in its development the Ministry of Finance would have to devote more attention to building a patron’s conscience than to tax relief (taking into account the enormous exemptions that large accounts already enjoy).
With the current Patronage Law, individual donations deduct 25% of personal income tax and 35% of corporate tax in the case of companies. In France, they reach 66% and 60% respectively. The case of the USA is extraordinary, where contributions can deduct up to 100% of what is donated. However, the reason for delaying this reform has always been the same for decades: these are not good times to improve taxation. And culture does not pay off, suffocated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is time to stimulate with something more than money, as happens in the Anglo-Saxon countries where recognition is used as payment to donors.
It is urgent to make non-donor collectors understand that the State and its public collections are receivers of historical heritage, but they are not its clients. It is also important that society’s investment in culture be more fluid and at zero cost, because in this way the public initiative will be dedicated exclusively to promoting values such as creativity and talent with Spanish money. It is enough to review the amounts of aid for creation to understand what is being privileged and what is being mistreated.
Certain political gestures do not help in the difficult task of creating in the most privileged this awareness of disinterested support for culture. The coalition government between PSOE and United We Can has made art investors understand that patronage is not essential in a country without resources. When Miquel Iceta, Minister of Culture, signed in February with Carmen Cervera the rental of her collection for almost 100 million euros for 15 years, a door was closed to the delivery of the capital without a millionaire orgy. As if that were not enough, in addition to the rents and other exceptions that will benefit Cervera, this contract has turned the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum – a museum supported by public money and managed by a private foundation headed by Cervera – into a commercial gallery . It will bring more disappointments and headlines than peace and culture in these years of income.
What the technicians of the Ministry of Culture themselves warn is that when an archive-collection like that of José María Lafuente is acquired for 30 million euros, any possibility of future donation to public collections is broken. Gone are the 700,000 euros that Culture paid to the heirs of the photographer Agustí Centelles, in 2009, or the 3.5 million euros to Carmen Balcells for her papers. And with each purchase, a new message that confirms to investors in art that Spain does not have patrons, because it does not need them.