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Serbia/ 7. Public institutions in cultural infrastructure  

7.3 Status and partnerships of public cultural institutions

According the Law on Culture, there were 22 National Cultural Institutions of Excellence (including those located in Vojvodina and Kosovo) in 2009 covering all sectors of culture. Now, in 2014 there are as much as 60 institutions with this title. Such a great number of institutions with the highest significance is, according to many voices in the field, not balanced with their real capacity and the capacity of Ministry of Culture and Information to support and evaluate their work.

The National Museum, National Archive, National Library and Republican Institute for Heritage Protection perform a key role in the overall system of cultural institutions. They also organise professional education and training and they provide monitoring and evaluation services. All these institutions are over-staffed and still lack new professional competences / skills in PR, marketing, fund-raising, human resource management, strategic planning, etc.

Provincial institutions in Vojvodina perform a similar role and have similar problems as the national cultural institutions. They are both large and dependent on public budgetary allocations (90%).

City and municipal institutions represent the largest network of public cultural institutions in Serbia. They are basically financed from the city or municipal budget even in those cases when, by their activity, they cover an expanded territory of several neighbouring municipalities. For example: the City Museum of Kragujevac is in charge of research and collecting the objects in five surrounding municipalities, yet, it is solely financed by the City of Kragujevac. City cultural institutions are more and more motivated to address the market.

For cultural organisations, the amount of budgetary subsidies of the total income can vary between 30% and 80% depending on the kind of activities. In 2004, budgetary subsidies represented 80% of the total income of museums, galleries, archives and libraries; 50% of the total income of performing arts organisations, 35% of the total income of heritage protection organisations etc. On the other hand, the share of different kind of revenues from the business sector varies from 2.5% (archives) to 40% of total income (preservation of cultural inheritance and sights).

Private cultural institutions were already created at the beginning of the 1980s, including galleries, film production groups and theatres. Now they exist in all cultural fields and are eligible for project funding. This has been an important development as private bookshops, for example, were not allowed to exist prior to 1990 (however, the first small book stand, as a private bookstore, had been opened in 1985 as a café-bookshop within the Yugoslav Drama Theatre). Private cultural businesses must pay taxes, similar to any other commercial enterprise.

Owners of private cultural institutions started creating associations to lobby for their new and specific position in the market, but legislators still do not recognise the necessity to create a specific status for private non-profit institutions, which would give them tax deductions or other advantages.

More and more cultural institutions are developing projects with other public or private sector institutions due to incentives coming from different bodies, such as the Open Society Institute, the European Cultural Foundation, Pro Helvetia, Stability Pact, etc. This type of co-operation is also taking place on a regional (South East Europe) level.

Partnerships with the private sector are widely spread in Serbia, also due to the long tradition of corporate sponsorship and the economic necessity of cultural institutions to fund-raise for programmes and projects; throughout the 1990s it was the only way for cultural institutions to survive. Keeping in mind the current state of the Serbian economy, it is not paradoxical that the majority of sponsorship is currently in the form of sponsorship "in-kind" (in goods and services) which is not expressed in official budgets.

It is also noteworthy to underline that companies are financing and setting up their own art workshops, studios and groups, e.g. Terra Kikinda, Copper mine in Bor, etc. Many of these companies, and their projects, are eligible and receive financial support from the Ministry of Culture.

Some cultural institutions have launched different initiatives to attract money from the private sector. The National Theatre created an "Association of Business Supporters" and the National Philharmonic established a special "V.I.P. Subscription Scheme". These initiatives represent a new approach to establish links between the arts and business.

In an effort to stimulate inter-sectorial cooperation, the Ministry of Culture of Serbia launched a competition to reward the best strategic partnership between businesses and the cultural sector in 2005. The Ministry also created an award for the best achievement in graphic design, industrial design and branding. Unfortunately, those awards were neglected, and moved towards the private sector.

Since 2008 the Serbian Chamber of Commerce give an award for Corporate Social Responsibility including achievements in the field of culture.

Also, BCIF, the Balkan Fund for Local Initiatives was launched in Virtus, in 2007 (

International companies, such as Philip Morris and Erste Bank, have developed their programmes to support cultural activities and projects. Philip Morris in Nis is supporting mostly visual arts activities and culture and education. Erste bank, together with BCIF – Balkan Community Initiatives Fund (founded in Serbia in 2004) – supports small artistic initiatives and projects in Serbian provincial cities that have an Erste bank branch.

Chapter published: 18-08-2015

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