Art patronage has existed for the past centuries where kings and noble man would support artists, painters and sculptors. It plays a huge part of the history of art. Art patronage was usually done as a way of enhancing the elite’s social status and prestige. Fast forward to 21st century, it is still as important and there is need for patronage of the arts specifically in Zimbabwe.
Art patronage can be defined as the support, reinforcement, or financial aid that an organisation or a specific individual gives to a painter or sculptor.
The patron’s work is not limited towards financial sponsorship to the artist, they become intimately associated with the artist’s life by providing them with working space and material to use in their day to day work.
Jennifer Miller (2017) sates how there has been a paradigm shift in the way patrons and arts enthusiasts sponsor artists.
“They are moving away from merely collecting and consuming art and toward a model reminiscent of the Renaissance, when royal houses provided room, board, materials and important professional connections to talented artists of the day.”
Patrons of the 21st century are less politically motivated and they do not invite artists into their extravagant looking homes commanding them to paint.
Just like the patrons from the 17th century, they give artists a platform to successfully establish their career while providing living expenses and supplies.
Traditionally, many patron-artist relationships had an extremely disproportional pecuniary power, however in this modern age that has since changed.
In the history of art the name Lorenzo de’ Medici is no stranger in the art industry as he was one of the greatest art patrons of the Renaissance culture in Italy.
He supported many artists including Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Botticelli who later became famous artists till this day, Lorenzo de’ Medici obtained beautiful art through sponsoring these artists.
Artists who were patronised by Lorenzo received art supplies, food and rooms. All the artists had to do was create art giving them enough time to focus on creating beautiful art instead of wasting their time with other jobs.
A lot of artists in Zimbabwe either practice art as a part time occupation and those who are full time artists are well established artists.
For aspiring artists, it is still a challenge for them to establish themselves in such a competitive environment, hence the need for patrons of art.
When art is realised at an early stage, it allows patrons who are interested to give these artists to focus full time on their career without any financial hindrances.
Zimbabwe still has a developing economy, and patrons are of great use to artist as they do not to face any financial challenges as patrons are likely to provide working space and materials to use while they execute their talent.
Zimbabwean art has been receiving different support from different organisations and individuals. This is to ensure that Zimbabwean art gets a limelight in different parts of the world and also as a way of uplifting uprising artists.
Perlagia Mutyavaviri a sculptor won a competition for promising new Zimbabwean sculptors sponsored by art patron Kristen Diehl and supported by the German government in 2002. She got to travel to Germany to accept the award and to represent her colleagues at an exhibition.
Michael Riversong (1998) states that when a specific patron supports an artists, trust is in the centre of this relationship. “The patron must feel that the artist can and will deliver something worthwhile”. It also means that for the artist to continue to have full support and back up from the interested patron, there is need for the production of good and quality works that are worth the investment.
Art patronage is of great importance especially towards Zimbabwean artists. With a developing economy it would be of great benefit for aspiring artists to receive any financial aid and assistance from any organisation or specific individuals.
This will provide artists strong foundation to establish their talent into a long lasting career. Quite a number of Zimbabwean artists do not take art professionally and for those who do, it is important for them to have a strong foundation that will ensure that the business will last a lifetime.
Artists need to develop a unique style that will attract art patrons so as to make sure that it is worth the investment.