Culture is future » Financing and economic models


Article - la Cultura non si mangia! by Hervé Digne-Vice Chairman of the Forum d’Avignon Senior Partner, Kurt Salmon

La cultura non si mangia! The answer, in the form of punch on the table from Giulio Tremonti, Italian Minister of Finance to Sandro Bondi, Minister of Culture, has been disseminated all around the web. It corresponds to a narrow productivist vision, a Pavlovian response that targets expenditures on culture as the first item to be cut in times of fiscal stress. And there are many victims, both of public and private funding: the UK Film Council, who had accompanied the revival of British cinema to the great American symphony orchestras, the Philadelphia’s which placed itself under protection with the scarcity of private patronage.
It is always the same refrain: culture is luxury, and is more in favor of the few elite. Far from cartoons, other voices are heard to emphasize that culture should not be considered as an expense but rather as a real investment. This is the manifest and the rationale for the "Forum d'Avignon[1]", think tank created in 2008 from an idea by Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, former French minister of Culture. Forum crystallizes a new awareness, particularly by tackling culture through its economic effects.
The cultural and creative industries have become a major economic sector and culture a key to sustainable development. Especially in a new economic model which is struggling to emerge in the rubble of the twin crises of industrial capitalism from the 19th century and the excessive financialization of the economy. This new approach has been enshrined in Agenda 21 for Culture, adopted in November 2010 in Mexico, at the World Congress of United Cities and Local Governments, which recommended adding culture to the three pillars that underpin the sustainable development since the Earth Summit in Rio.
Let’s take in the measurement. Culture in its broadest sense, of cultural and creative industries, is representing a turnover of 654 billion Euros, 2.6% of GDP of the Union countries (2003)[2] , well higher, for example, than the automobiles ($ 271 billion in 2001). In the United States, Hollywood contributes more than Detroit in the U.S. trade balance. In 2004, nearly 6 million people were employed – that was fed! – by Culture, more than 3% of total employment in the European Union. Finally, the KEA study points out that this sector has a higher contribution, with more than 12%, to the overall growth of the economy.

The effect of cultural facilities on the attractiveness of regions and growth of major cities has been highlighted by studies conducted by Kurt Salmon for the Forum d’Avignon since 2009.

They are particularly designed to analyze the possible correlation between economic performance of a city and its "cultural and academic strength." These studies are based on a range of indicators and observe the strategies of 47 cities worldwide. If the relationship between economic performance and cultural and academic intensity remains to be proved, the statistical approach already reveals some constants. The study shows that most cities tend to a number of cultural facilities like museums / theater / opera above 8 per 100 000 inhabitants, an annual public cultural spending about 100 Euros per capita and a number of students greater than 10% of the population, the more likely that the annual number of tourists per capita would be greater than 5 and that the unemployment rate would be below 8%. This relationship is well illustrated by the motto of RUHR 2010, European Capital of Culture Essen uniting around 52 cities of the former mining area, "Change through culture - Culture through change" ("Wandel durch Kultur - Wandel durch Kultur ").

In fact culture has even become emblematic of a new growth model centered on knowledge economy. Culture and creative industries are the essence of this "weightless economy" that Maurice Levy and Jean-Pierre Jouyet has highlighted the potential for growth and job creation. The intangible was already in 2006: 20% of the value added and 15% of national employment.

Beyond photography wide shot of the sector, culture has also increasingly became a policy instrument.

In France, during the recent crisis that dimension has not been forgotten. The City press noted that the stimulus of the French Government had committed more than 100 million Euros in the renovation of heritage, especially the cathedrals, and funding new major cultural projects. This philosophy is also found in 2010 large loan in a vast movement of 4.5 billion Euros for development of the digital society and equipment of the country in broadband, has not forgotten the digitization of cultural content that has received a budget of 750 million Euros.

Locally, this economic approach to cultural investment has recently taken a new dimension: culture is the focus of a new competition between cities and territories which aims to exceed the limits of cultural policy too focused solely on benefits tourism. Thus, urban brownfields are now agreed as part of artist residencies, production companies or centers for contemporary art. It is that "the Bilbao effect" has been there.

The establishment of the Guggenheim Museum by Frank Gehry in ancient Basque industrial city has not only to drain over a million visitors a year but more importantly, by transforming the image of the city, to deploy its activity to services which now account for three-quarters of his wealth. The museum has cost 132 million Euros. The feasibility study included 400,000 visitors a year. The first years, Bilbao has received 1.36 million visitors and the increase in GDP was 144 million Euros, showing that the investment has been fully paid back in one year ...

The installation of the Louvre in Lens and Abu Dhabi shares this same commitment to change. Facilities, cultural activities are now much ammunition for the "global cities" in their pursuit of corporate headquarters and offices in value. As recalled Klaus Wowereit, mayor of Berlin, Forum d'Avignon 2008, "developing the culture is not just a question of culture: it is an economical choice." With 13% of GDP provided by local culture and creative industries which occupy over 10% of its population, Berlin has perhaps little choice but to transform the cultural heritage of two capitals a political attractiveness ambitious but costly.

Gilles Lipovetsky has even been talking of "revenge culture" in its interconnection with the market and its global operating modes became evident.

Given this situation, the goal is now to go further, and strengthen the influence of culture throughout the economy. In a recent Green Paper, the European Commission called for "unlock the potential of cultural and creative industries." It stresses the "potential of culture as a catalyst for creativity and innovation" in the Europe 2020 project. As the sociologist David Throsby recalled for "Culture is future," the blog of the Forum d'Avignon, "cultural industries have an important role in creating new ideas."

This development strategy based on the cultural and creative industries is not the only alternative remaining to Europe have deserted factories. As has been rightly pointed by the KEA report, China's ambition to move from "Made in China" to "designed in China" investing heavily in this sector that has emerged in the 11th Plan 2006-2011, before become a priority for the 12th Plan. The use of European or American starchitects to Beijing and Shanghai to showcase the country in the 21st century is a sign, popularized by the Olympics and World Expo. Shenzhen known as a workshop outsourcing has become a "city of design" labeled by Unesco.

This policy firmly on culture and creativity reflects the importance of this sector in the context of the economic war in which countries are involved. Culture has become an ammunition blast in the soft power. It is through this diplomacy of influence that the countries of the European Union may represent the values ​​that underpin their economies: freedom, democracy, respect for minorities ...
This shows how investing in culture is the key to development that respects the environment and people. In calling for the ambition of a "harmonious society" even the Chinese plan outlined in its own way the importance of culture to "meet the growing needs of the population for a better spiritual and cultural life."

Beyond the incantations, we are at the heart of sustainable development. Arts and Culture pollinate the economy and the environment. They establish a link between the place-geography and history on Heritage, by inventing a future in creation. The shadow of the Vitruvian Man, extending to the economy, traces the contours of our interdependence, recalling the urgency of a "politics of civilization" demanded by Edgar Morin. 

[1] [1]This article is relying on « Culture, a key if sustainable development’ – Hervé Digne for Réalités industrielles-May 2010 and owes a lot to the blog « Culture is future » of the Forum (


[2] The economy of Culture in Europe », étude KEA pour la Commission européenne, octobre 2006