This chapter is in three parts. The first part focuses on Bourdieu's own work on museums and art galleries, and the sociocultural relationships which exist between museums and their visitors. Key texts here are L'Amour de l'art (1991d/1969/1966), La Distinction (1984/1979) and The Field of Cultural Production (1993b). We show how Bourdieu used empirical evidence to demonstrate how an individual's experience of culture, in this case art museums, is structured by class, education and social origin, and how these have varied between sites and over time. The second part of the chapter presents three distinct national art institutions as case exemplars: the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York and the Tate Gallery in London. Each art museum is considered in terms of the configuration of its symbolic capital, its position within the field of cultural production and its trajectory over time. For each, examples of a three-level Bourdieusian analysis (see chapter 3) are offered to show the structure of the field through the interrelationships of field participants and institutions. The third part of the chapter raises some specific questions about the present and future functioning of art museums within the artistic field, the broader social field and the field of power.
Bourdieu's View of Culture
Bourdieu's early work on museums and their audiences was written at a time of changes in French society. The issues of social class and access to education found in L'Amour de l 'art would eventually come to a head in the student riots in Paris in 1968. His empirical work was undertaken at a time before the study of museums - museology – was an established field of knowledge. Since its publication, and its translation into English in 1991, it has become a key text in the sociological analysis of culture and in the study of museums. Bourdieu's findings could be argued to have shaped subsequent discussions between politicians, curators and art historians about access to culture, and its links to education and social class (cf. Sandell 2002; Smith 1998).