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Arts owes business a round of applause

Music festivals, such as the Paléo on Lake Geneva, benefit the most from corporate sponsors

One in eight firms in Switzerland supports cultural activities, donating some SFr320 million ($260 million) each year.

In the first study of its kind, the Federal Statistics Office found that private sector donations were equivalent to about 15 per cent of public spending on the arts, which totalled SFr2.3 billion in 2001.

The research – which examined the spending policies of over 5,000 Swiss firms – concluded that the public sector is not committed enough to cultural activities.

Its emphasis was on the important contribution made by the private sector, of which companies in German-speaking Switzerland are the most generous donors.

Nine out of every ten francs given by companies to the arts comes from the German-speaking region, with larger firms – mainly in the banking, insurance and retail sectors – giving the most.

“The German-speaking region is where most big companies are based – where the economic power is concentrated,” says Yvan Cuche of the Federal Statistical Office.

Some 71.5 per cent of firms in Switzerland are located in the German-speaking part of the country, while French- and Italian-speaking regions account for 22.8 per cent and 5.7 per cent respectively.

Cuche said that companies in the French-speaking region contribute less because they are weaker financially.

Brand awareness

The research showed that many firms give out of a feeling of social responsibility and that financial institutions use arts sponsorship mainly as a tool to increase their brand recognition.

The performing arts are considered the best act in town, accounting for close to half of all donations. Fine arts and activities related to the promotion of culture receive about 20 per cent each.

Financially strapped artists can expect little from private sector money as most firms choose to donate to specific institutions rather than individual causes.

Libraries, museums, theatre houses and concert halls are the biggest winners, receiving about 75 per cent of all private funding.

Daniel Rosselat, director of Switzerland’s largest open-air event, the Paléo Festival in Nyon, says the annual event on the shores of Lake Geneva is privileged to receive as much money as it does.

“There are not that many companies with a flair for culture,” Rosselat told swissinfo.

Although a few firms are willing to give over a SFr1 million annually to support the arts, most contribute between SFr1,000 and SFr10,000 a year.


In 2000, the government, cantons and local authorities spent about SFr2 billion on the arts.

This jumped to SFr2.3 billion in 2002 due to additional spending on Switzerland’s national exhibition Expo.02. Businesses also chipped in an additional SFr50 million during the same year.

As for the future, those looking for more hand-outs from business are likely to be disappointed.

The study found that many firms plan to move money away from the arts in favour of social causes or sporting activities. These currently account for roughly 70 per cent of corporate sponsorship.

swissinfo, Ariane Gigon Bormann (translation: Karin Kamp)

The Federal Office for Culture and the arts council Pro Helvetia are responsible for promoting the arts in Switzerland and abroad.

The culture office focuses on art, film and the conservation of monuments. It is also responsible for Switzerland’s libraries, museums, literature archives and the Dürrenmatt centre.

Pro Helvetia works to promote Swiss culture abroad and cultural dialogue between Switzerland’s four linguistic regions.

In 2001, firms spent SFr370 million on the arts.
90% came from German-speaking Switzerland.
The government spent SFr2.3 billion.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR