DIPPING its toe into the Irish arts sponsorship waters for the first time with its support of IMMA's recent 'The Moderns' exhibition has seen BNP Paribas become associated with one of the most celebrated, highprofile cultural events in Ireland over the last few years.
Winner of the Best Large Sponsorship award at the Allianz Business to Arts Awards, The Moderns was a major exhibition of modern art from IMMA's own collection, joined with supporting material from a variety of other historical State sources.
The exhibition, which took over most of the museum from last October until April of this year, attracted 135,000 visitors, 28pc of whom had never been to IMMA before. According to Hugo Jellett, head of development at IMMA, the exhibition had a profound effect on the country culturally and was also hugely important for the museum itself, which has not done quite as much for Irish art as it has for international art over the last 10 years. He stresses that BNP Paribas' support had a big impact on how the museum was able to promote and enhance the exhibition, which ultimately turned it into one of its most successful events to date.
While Jellett had spent several years trying to attract BNP Paribas as a partner, the nature of the exhibition and scale of the sponsorship were completely different to what he had originally envisaged. His initial objective was to get BNP Paribas to emulate what it has done for many years in Paris – namely to sponsor a contemporary art event. "I offered them all sorts of French artists coming up but their reaction was 'No, we want something which is recognised as being really important to Ireland'." Gilles de Decker, CEO of BNP in Dublin, explains that when the idea of sponsoring The Moderns was presented to the bank, it was felt that the collaboration was a good fit to expand the philanthropic footprint of the group in a local context. "It was essentially an exhibition of the nation's collection, the largest of its kind to date, and in that regard was an optimistic and celebratory project at a time that the arts required support," he says.
Without a sponsor in place for an exhibition there is always a possibility of compromise in some aspect of the show. "If no sponsorship comes, it can still take place, but the impact may not reach its potential" says Jellett. So, as a result of receiving a substantial amount of money from BNP Paribas, the museum was in a position to produce an important 500-page book on The Moderns and also had a budget to develop and run a TV and radio campaign. "Doing TV ads for art exhibitions is not something usually attainable," says Jellett. "It helped snowball this whole promotional effect for the exhibition." Another outcome was funding by the Department of Arts to create an online gallery. "What the BNP Paribas support did was turn a relatively straightforward, exhibition into probably the biggest exhibition we've had," concludes Jellett. "In a challenging time, there was a real swelling of pride, a sense of achievement that happened to come at a good time for the country. I think it made quite a lot of people come and visit, and keep returning."
According to de Decker, BNP Paribas regards its sponsorship of The Moderns as a successful partnership with IMMA. "It supported a landmark exhibition for the museum while providing both access and awareness to a wide public including our clients and employees."