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Visitors to modern and contemporary art museums: Towards a new sociology of 'cultural profiles'

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Publication details

JournalSociological review
DateE-pub ahead of print - 9 Sep 2013
DatePublished (current) - Nov 2013
Issue number4
Number of pages24
Pages (from-to)790-813
Early online date9/09/13
Original languageEnglish


Sociologists traditionally focus on the power of socio-economic variables as drivers of attendance at museums. However, this research runs the risk of a certain socio-economic reductionism which fails to register the aesthetic dimensions of cultural consumption. To remedy this, I propose a new focus on cultural profiles beyond the prism of SES, which allows us to better interpret the role of the art museum visit in visitors' daily life. The cultural profile is defined as a set of cultural, creative and leisure preferences and activities, towards various forms of art, which classify and can be classified. I use multiple correspondence analysis to examine the nature of cultural profiles among visitors of six museums of modern and contemporary art in Belgium. Six different cultural profiles are defined, each a ‘bricolage’ of different classifying registers that structure and define practices and tastes. My approach allows us to reconcile and elaborate current interests in cultural sociology about the relationship between high versus low culture (Bourdieu), experimentation versus classicism, transgression versus conservatism and omnivores versus univores (Peterson).

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