Since the exhibit opened July 22 at the Art Institute of Chicago, it has put the Chicago-based telecommunications marketer's name alongside an art phenomenon that's drawing record crowds from around the world, jamming museum telephone lines and local hotels.
Ameritech's Monet connection is also one more example of the fast-growing trend linking corporate marketing goals more directly with corporate arts sponsorships, as federal and private sources of arts funding shrink.
Ameritech's own prepaid phone card decorated with a Monet design is being test-marketed in the Art Institute's booming gift shop, which is selling as much as $100,000 in Monet-related merchandise per day, say museum officials.
This week, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York opens an exhibit with an even more explicit marketing twist: 350 works by the 18th and 19th century Spanish painter Francisco do Goya will be sponsored by Hispanic foods marketer Goya Foods of Secaucus, N.J.
Simultaneously, the Philadelphia Museum of Art opens an exhibit of 1920s era photographer Tina Modotti's work, sponsored exclusively by the pop culture superstar Madonna, one of Modotti's biggest fans.
Celebs become funding source
"This is our first celebrity-sponsored exhibit, but it's typical of the new sources of funding we're looking to develop as the $1 million sponsorships become fewer and further between," said Mari Jones, special assistant to the museum's director for exhibition sponsorship.
The same museum will open a major exhibit of the French painter Paul Cezanne's work next spring sponsored by Horsham, Pa.-based financial services marketer Advanta. The exhibit will coincide with Advanta's new national brand campaign.
At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, "less money is coming from big conglomerates like IBM," and funding is increasing from smaller companies recognizing the marketing power of arts sponsorships for the first time, said Sonya Kay Levy, head of corporate giving for the largest art museum in the western U.S.
The first L.A. County Museum of Art sponsorship by May Co.'s Southern California-based Robinsons-May department store takes place in November with "The American Discovery of Ancient Egypt." The exhibit, appearing from Nov. 5 to Jan. 21, coincides with the store's high-traffic holiday sales season.
Sara Lee contributes $4.1 million
Longtime arts sponsor Sara Lee Corp. is sponsoring a Degas exhibit this year at the new Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. The company's private foundation increased its direct cash grants 4% this year to $4.1 million, supporting a wide variety of cultural projects.
"Our commitment to arts sponsorship is very long and deep; other companies may be just getting into it more heavily, but for us, it's always been an important focus," said Robin S. Tryloff, executive director of the Sara Lee Foundation.