PEX through Paintings #6 – “The White Man”

Monday 3 February 2020

Today’s painting, Feininger’s “The White Man”, sparked the initial idea to use paintings to frame reflections on PEX 2020. First of all, “male, pale, stale” is a prominent criticism of the foundation world. In that respect, it was good to see some explicit discussions about gender and diversity in the foundation world being initiated and being had at PEX. This is an important space to watch.

Secondly, the painting also reminds us that, although “philanthrocolonialism” has historically been predominantly levelled as a critique at US philanthropy*, there is evidence of a similar dominance and accompanying tension between Western European philanthropy and other areas of Europe, as well as beyond. Conversations on both aspects across networks thus provided potential impetus to be more explicit in acknowledging, considering and addressing these.

What was also nice was that there was no real grandstanding during the conversations at PEX – notwithstanding diverse perspectives, the importance of different views and voices was acknowledged. Going forward, a similar touch of humility on all sides seems pertinent – wealth does not necessarily equate to wisdom, academics cannot necessarily provide all the answers, and things that work in one area should not necessarily be forced upon others.


* e.g. Arnove, R. (ed.) (1980) Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism. The Foundations at Home and Abroad, G.K. Hall & Co. Boston, Massachusetts

This short blog series reflects on ten overarching points relating to the 2020 Philanthropy Europe Networks (PEX) Forum through ten paintings from the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection. All images featured in the series are photos taken in line with the museum’s policy allowing no-flash photography. Free acess to digital versions of the paintings and accompanying information on copyrights are provided on the museum’s webpages at

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