Foreign banks step in to Irish arts scene as domestic funding shrinks


FOREIGN BANKS in Ireland are moving into the space occupied by Irish banks by sponsoring more art exhibitions as domestic institutions cut spending to cope with the financial crisis.

French bank BNP Paribas sponsored The Moderns,an exhibition of more than 450 works by 200 artists at the Irish Museum of Modern Art at Royal Hospital Kilmainham, earlier this year.

Bank of New York Mellon, which employs 1,750 in Ireland, sponsored an exhibition of works by Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera earlier this year.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch is funding the conservation of the iconic painting, The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife, at the National Gallery of Ireland.

Hugo Jellett, head of development at Imma, said funding by the Irish banks “just fell off a cliff” after the financial crisis hit.

“There was this moment when the international banks felt they had to do something,” he said.

The viability of projects was not affected by the lost sponsorship, said Mr Jellett, but the international banks allow the museum to present bigger exhibitions such as full retrospectives of an artist’s work rather than shorter periods.

The support of BNY Mellon and Bank of America Merrill Lynch “started people like me thinking that we need to look outside the usual suspects”, said Mr Jellett.

Gilles de Decker, head of BNP Paribas’s Irish operations, said its sponsorship of The Modernsallowed Imma to extend the number of pieces in the collection.

The sponsorship shows clients and its 220 staff in Ireland “our presence in the community” and confirms “the bank’s commitment beyond the business”, he said.

Joe Duffy, chief executive of BNY Mellon’s Irish operations, said more than 95 per cent of its customers are international so sponsoring art exhibitions creates brand recognition in Ireland.

“We have to be more socially aware and play a greater role in the community,” he said.

Peter Keegan, head of Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Ireland, said it would continue supporting arts and culture as it has since it opened in Ireland in 1968.