A fascinating Point of View on BBC Radio 4 this morning: David Cannadine talking about the changing art of giving. As Cannadine reminded listeners, “the practice of giving money away has been around for as long as there have been people possessed of more wealth than they required for their own immediate needs”, and his talk ranged in its all too brief 10 minutes from Sir Thomas Bodley to Warren Buffett, via Tate, Carnegie, Rockefeller, the Sainsburies and Bill and Melinda Gates. Cannadine identified a number of reasons why the rich are prepared to give their money away, including “the imperatives of religion, the desire for social recognition and acceptance, the need to assuage feelings of guilt, the craving for immortality, the pleasure of handing out large sums of money, and the genuine passion to try to do good, and make the world a better place.” To which I would add, at least as regards the great art collections assembled by the North American robber barons, the desire to prevent anyone else getting their hands on them. Walking around the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Frick Collection last year, I had the overwhelming feeling that whatever the reasons that drove them to collect, the last thing they were going to allow to happen was for their collections to be acquired by one of their rivals.

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