Museum Malignancy

Tobacco Industry Sponsorship of the Arts

Corporate sponsorship of dance troupes, opera companies, concert tours, film festivals, and art exhibitions at leading museums and libraries was pioneered in the 1950s by Philip Morris, the manufacturer of the fastest growing cigarette in America, Marlboro, as a means of diverting attention from the growing body of medical evidence of cigarette smoking’s devastating death toll from cancer, heart disease, and emphysema. These payments to cultural organizations—amounting to far less than a penny on the dollar compared to the cost of direct cigarette advertising—were so successful in buying complacency about smoking among opinion-leaders in the arts, commerce, the mass media, and politics that Philip Morris adopted the slogan, “It takes art to make a company great.” This exhibition reveals the deep-seated addiction of leaders of art museums to money from cigarette makers…to the present day.