Visitors, ‘cultivation’ and labels
• Identify key argument in Bourdieu and Darbel’s
• Ask: ‘what does this mean for interpretation?’
• Discuss Serrell’s approach to interpretative
• Apply this to your exhibitions – What is your big
idea? How does the ‘big idea’ relate to each
• Identify together success criteria for your
exhibitions. How will you know you’ve been
Pierre Boudieu and Alain Darbel (1991) The Love
of Art: European Art Museums and their Publics.
If it is indisputable that our society offers to
people the pure possibility of taking advantage
of the works on display in museums, it remains
the case that only some have the real possibility
of doing so.
• Museums are for everyone (MA Code of
• Open, free, for all
• For everyone, forever
• Cultural capital – ‘cultivation’
Knowledge (aesthetic engagement is knowledge p.
40), context, engagement at level of signifier, longer
engagement (dwell time, p. 38).
• Without cultural capital
Overwhelmed, shorter engagement – only way in
‘skill’ and experience, engagement at level of
signified (p. 40).
• If schools fail to provide this cultivation, then it is
left to families and this perpetuates inequality.
When the code of a work exceeds to code of the
spectator in it sophistication and complexity, the
latter cannot master a message which seems to
him devoid of necessity. (p. 43)
Those who did not receive the instruments
which imply familiarity with art from their family
or from their schooling are condemned to a
perception of a work of art which takes its
categories from the experience of everyday life
and which results in the basic recognition of the
object depicted. (p. 44)
What do Bourdieu and Darbel’s arguments
mean for ‘interpretation’ in art galleries?
Fundamentally meaningful – have ‘soul’
All parts (labels) help communicate big idea
You know this works because - visitors can say
what the exhibition is about
What is your big idea?
Soul and fundamental meaningfulness
Clear not necessarily simple
Will visitors be able to say – this is what the
exhibition is about?
‘What’s in it for me? Why should I care? How
will knowing this improve my life?’
Start with visual concrete information – what
can visitors see. Work from specific to general.
Subject sentence – cast of characters
Verbs – what they do…