On Monday, Volkswagen and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York announced a two-year, multi-million dollar partnership. The German auto giant will provide sponsorship for the museum's exhibitions and education programs, and will donate two pieces by Belgian artist Francis Alÿs to MoMA's permanent collection.
MoMA assures us, however, that the museum's tastes have not changed. Kim Mitchell, MoMA's Chief Communication Officer, told the Huffington Post that "while Volkswagen's generous support makes these programs possible, they will not be playing a curatorial or advisory role in the development of the content."
Though the partners did not disclose the total amount of Volkswagen's support, MoMA director Glenn D. Lowry was quoted in Bloomberg, saying: “The scale of support is absolutely remarkable from our perspective.”
WNYC reports Volkswagen President Dr. Martin Winterkorn's comments on the partnership, which he hopes will help his company "understand American culture better."
Some may recognize in this agreement the specter of BP's sponsorship of the Tate, a partnership that was heavily scrutinized last year. The English oil giant was accused in the Guardian of being less concerned with the art than with improving its brand identity and gaining access to "glitzy events at which it can foster vital relationships with ministers, journalists and foreign dignitaries."
Although BP's connection to the arts was tenuous at best, the Volkswagen Group has had an affinity for design and image-making for decades. Even aside from designs like the well-known Beetle and Type 2 (the "Volkswagen Bus"), the company has overseen a particularly well-received TV ad campaign. Car culture blog Jalopnik has opined that "it was Volkswagen that first made an art form out of the automotive television advertisement."
More interesting than promise of funding itself, in fact, may be the influence the two entities will prove to have on one another.