The art of asking. Strategies of patronage solicitation through the ages in music, literature, visual arts, and intellectual culture
Utrecht (15 novembre 2024), avant le 15 avril 2024

One-day conference, Utrecht University

In many European countries, the cultural sector is working towards establishing a (renewed) tradition of cultural patronage. Across the EU, individual makers are experimenting with building a community of private donors through crowdfunding projects or membership schemes. At the same time, many different cultural institutions are now working at engaging with their support circles of minor and major donors. National cultural policies have been following suit, by actively encouraging the establishment of a 21st-century ‘culture of asking’ and ‘culture of private giving’ in the arts. Cultural patronage has a long, colorful, and complex history. Writers, visual artists, composers, and scholars have sought out the support of rich or well-connected private patrons for centuries, and have interacted with their private benefactors in a variety of ways. The premise underpinning the conference ‘The art of asking’ is the assumption that historical exchange patterns might serve as useful examples of patronage practices for today’s makers and cultural institutions – and, moreover, that a better understanding of historical patronage patterns may help contextualize modern day practices. We welcome proposals that help open up discussions about the way(s) creators active in the fields of literature, visual arts, music and intellectual culture, in present and past have historically put forward their requests for backing and protection of private patrons, and have as such helped shape the ‘culture of asking’ of their times. We are also interested in the factors affecting the creator’s asking strategies or choice of (prospective) patrons, and in the historical continuities and discontinuities in the ways creators shaped a ’culture of asking’.

With this conference, we aim to explore these premises by focusing on one particular aspect of the history of patronage. Whereas most existing research puts the efforts and achievements of the patron in the center of attention, we will concentrate on mapping the strategies of the (potential) recipients of support. How have artists and thinkers, through the ages, asked their (prospective) private patrons for support? Taking the step to ask a rich or well-connected individual for funding or protection takes courage, tact, strategic thinking, initiative, bravado, and confidence. Even in periods in which patronage was a self-evident part of artistic and academic practice, artists and scholars have always had to think carefully about the best way to approach their benefactors. For more information about the specifications for the proposals, please read the PDF call for proposals below. Please submit your proposals in Word format only to

Acceptance will be notified via email by the end of April 2024. A detailed conference programme will be available on the website before summer.

Note: online participation is possible. If you intend to participate online, please let us know when sending in your abstract.