Teatro Español & Madrid's Arts Organizations Find New Friends
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Congratulations to Teatro Español, ISPA member organization on being included in the recent New York Times article about Madrid arts organizations developing alternative financing strategies to assuage government budget cuts. Read a reproduction of the article below, which was written by Doreen Carvajal and published on September 23, 2013, or on the New York Times website.
Bloodstains mixed with graffiti mark the walls of this city’s old
slaughterhouse and its vast compound of arched neo-Moorish pavilions.
They are signs of an eclectic history: over the last century, the
complex, called Matadero Madrid, has changed from an abattoir to a
homeless squat to an outpost for contemporary art, theater and
is evolving into a cultural laboratory, where a new arts financing
strategy is being tested. Companies and institutions are providing
financial support to supplement dwindling government arts subsidies, but
with a twist: they don’t just send checks, they move in.
Within the walled 59,000-square-foot center, there are public theaters
and exhibition spaces that last year drew more than 500,000 visitors for
music and art events and avant-garde plays. But five new residents are
private institutions, including a designers’ association, a publishing
house’s foundation and offices of Red Bull, the Austrian energy drink
They are in the compound rent-free for now, but have invested millions
in the remodeling of pavilions there, as well as in programming, from
art exhibitions to music festivals.
These new partnerships are forged, out of necessity, here in Spain,
where government support for culture has plunged by almost 50 percent
over the last four years, a result of a lingering economic crisis that
hit late in 2008. In other struggling countries in Europe, austerity
policies have forced art institutions to curtail programs and court
There is, though, some wariness about how far to press this approach.
Increasingly, in some European countries, the emerging down side of
corporate patronage is that culture is heavily influenced by those
businesses. One example is a museum exhibition in Paris this year devoted to the "art” of Chanel No. 5 perfume; in France, this trend has been mocked as "publicity exhibits.”
But there is not the same criticism in Spain, where most cultural
institutions are struggling to stave off more cuts in their activities.
Within Matadero, the corporate neighbors are embraced as full partners
who share in the coordination of the compound and discussions about
programming, a model that has intrigued arts executives in other
countries who have come to Madrid to study it.
Casa del Lector, a foundation to promote reading created by the founder
of the Spanish textbook publisher Anaya, moved into Matadero last fall
after financing a $16.8 million makeover of a pig slaughterhouse within
the compound into a high-tech lecture and exhibition space. The
foundation offers lectures, workshops and art exhibitions on themes like
Bram Stoker’s "Dracula” and the covers of early Spanish romance novels.
Red Bull — whose name is emblazoned on the front of a former stable —
moved into Matadero in 2011. It spent more than $2.2 million to create
its own musical academy and fashion a garden in the interior of the
building, where there are also whimsical sandbag huts built on top of
the red earth ordinarily used in bullfighting rings. The academy
includes a professional recording studio
and performing space, part of Red Bull’s international network of music
workshops and concerts that it has organized since 1995 in cities from
New York to Berlin to promote its brand.
"We’re creating a new model of partnership,” said Victor Flores, the
cultural director for Red Bull in Spain, who calls it the first time a
company has worked so closely with a public cultural institution in
Spain. "In Spain’s cultural landscape, museums have sponsors, but they
don’t get involved so deeply in terms of the programs, schedules and how
to create and run space.”
Red Bull is negotiating an extension of its three-year lease, partly
because it was attracted by the demographic of Matadero’s visitors, many
of whom are in their 20s and 30s. "For us, it was super fresh, cutting
edge, innovative in its way with the arts,” Mr. Flores said.
In the meantime, Matadero is still looking for more partners to finance a
multimillion dollar makeover of two more empty pavilions. The existing
arrangement has helped Matadero thrive, earning a spot on a Top 10 list
of cultural institutions in Spain that have weathered the financial
crisis, a roster compiled by the Culture Observatory, a nonprofit
organization in Madrid that tracks culture spending and convenes a panel
of arts experts to highlight high-performing groups.
"In the future, none of Spain’s cultural institutions are going to
recover the budgets they had,” said Alberto Fesser, director of the
observatory. "The alternative path is this mix of private and public
income — sponsorships, commercial projects and individual
In that regard, Matadero is an innovator, he said. The art of the deal,
according to arts executives, is key to survival.
"It’s really different from the old way,” said Carlota Álvarez Basso,
the programming director for Matadero, who was appointed in 2012 and
whose aim is to preside over a paradigm shift in fund-raising. "Before, I
just got the money and I didn’t need to knock on the doors of different
institutions. We were rich. In the context of the crisis, we need to
find new ways. We have to change tactics.”
When Matadero opened, in 1911, it was a pioneer in industrial
architecture. But by 1996, it had closed and was abandoned to squatters,
whose graffiti has been retained as local color in one of Matadero’s
hip restaurants. Its reconstruction as a cultural center started in
2007, before financial markets began panicking about the difficult
financial situation in Spain and elsewhere.
Matadero’s executives are dreaming up other cost-saving strategies, from
scouting for co-producers in prosperous countries to enlisting unlikely
patrons, like a German insurance company with a modern art collection
to lend for an exhibition.
To supplement Madrid city hall’s $3.8 million budget for Matadero’s
administration and construction, the center draws revenue from two
restaurants in the compound and is opening a bicycle rental business.
Revenue from warehouse rentals and fees grew to roughly $930,000 last
Ms. Álvarez has also enlisted foreign embassies to help finance
residency exchanges of visiting artists, part of a broader plan to build
up Matadero’s international profile.
Her search for alternatives is a reflection of systemic difficulties for
cultural institutions. The government imposed a 21 percent sales tax on
ticket sales and, despite government pledges and lobbying efforts,
companies are not eligible for tax deductions for sponsorship
The threat of more government budget cuts has also inspired Teatro
Español — which runs an offshoot avant-garde theater in Matadero — to
seek private producers to mount small plays and to form alliances with
Spanish-speaking institutions outside the country, according to Natalio
Grueso, the director of Madrid’s programming for theater arts.
Mr. Grueso noted that the annual budget for Teatro Español, now $8
million, is half of what it was 10 years ago. He added that the cuts are
"It’s important,” he said, "to look for new alternatives.”