Art Rules: Are Museums Cultural Palaces or Tourist Spectaculars?

By Cheryl Hardy.

Published by The Arts Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Art museums may be understood as sites for the acquisition of ‘cultural capital’ and the consecration of associated cultural agents and visitors. Or, art museums may be seen as sites of popular cultural consumption. This paper discusses this and other oppositions which are generated by the changing role of art museums in society. The work presented here is an extension of empirical research undertaken by the author for the recently published book, ‘Art Rules’ (Grenfell and Hardy 2007). The paper is presented in three parts. Part 1 presents a brief account of Bourdieu’s own investigation of cultural consumption. Part 2 considers the founding of three international museums (Tate London, MOMA – New York, and Musee d’Orsay - Paris) in terms derived from Bourdieu’s theory of practice – field structure, habitus and capital. Part 3 examines how the ‘structuring structures’ of the present artistic and socio-political fields have combined with a museum’s own history to determine the field position of that museum today. A visual case example of the Tate Galleries in London is offered to illustrate each of these points. Finally, contradictions in the role of major art museums in the present artistic, social and political fields are considered.

Keywords: Art Museums, Bourdieu's Theory of Practice, Cultural Capital, Artisic Consumption

The International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.173-182. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.294MB).

Dr. Cheryl Hardy

Principal Lecturer, Faculty of Education,, University of Winchester, Winchester, Hampshire, UK


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