Renewal through culture? The role of networks in the projects of modern art museums in the cities of Europe (MUSERESO)

The establishment of the Guggenheim Foundation in Bilbao (1997) has prompted a number of similar projects in other European cities hit by the decline of traditional industries, attracted by the supposed impact of this equipment on their economic development. Our research focuses on such projects aimed at creating new art museums designed in this spirit. We plan case studies such as the Guggenheim Bilbao and its extension to the reserve Urdaibai, the Beaubourg in Metz, the Louvre in Lens 2, the Folkwang Museum in Essen (Germany), and the new creation of museums located on brownfield sites in Istanbul (Istanbul Modern and SantralIstanbul). Other cases my be included later on. The objective is to clarify the genesis of such cultural projects, by examinating the theoretical assumption that only the social embeddedness of their initiators makes possible the realization and success. We will try to identify the main protagonists of the political and cultural spheres involved locally and then analyze their relationships with two categories of external actors probably playing a central role in the success of a project and for its impact on the economic innovation system: on the one hand, with members of the transnational capitalist class (Sklair) whose glocal agenda leads to building relationships with local elites, and on the other with members of the creative class (Florida) expected to be equally decisive.

Scientific coordinator:

Gerhard Krauss, University of Rennes 2

Cooperation Partners

Guy Baudelle, University of Rennes 2

Martin Heidenreich, University of Oldenburg

Beatriz Plaza, University of the Basque Country, Bilbao

Jean-François Polo, University of Rennes 1

Our second project meeting in September 2011 (in front of the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao; from left to right: Martin Heidenreich, Beatriz Plaza, Guy Baudelle, Gerhard Krauss, Stephan Wiebke, Jean-François Polo)

Our contribution to the project

The Oldenburg team is charged with the analysis of the renewal of the Folkwang museum in Essen.We will discuss if and how the new Folkwang Museum in Essen contributes to the cultural and economic regeneration of the Ruhr Area.

The Ruhr area with its more than five million people is no longer an old industrial region, but one of the largest metropolitan conurbations in Europe. The former industrial core of Germany has become a service-based, polycentric urban landscape with 53 towns in which the boundaries between the major cities (Bochum, Dortmund, Duisburg, Essen, Gelsenkirchen, ...) are often barely noticeable. Even if still numerous energy and industrial companies are located in the Ruhr area (Eon, RWE, RAG AG, Degussa, ThyssenKrupp), the service sector already employs about three-quarters of the total labour force. After the industrial decline of the Ruhr area already since the 1950s, the region is no longer an old industrial region anymore, but one of the largest and the most diversified metropolitan conurbations in Europe. Accordingly, science, education, culture and recreational facilities play an increasingly important role in the Ruhr. This is symbolized by the appointment of the Ruhr area to Europe's Capital of Culture RUHR.2010. Over 10 million visitors have experienced the "breathtaking change from Europe's legendary coal and steel region to a new type of polycentric metropolitan culture".

Culture thus may play an important role in this transformation process of such an old industrial region as the Ruhr area has been. The region vaunts itself of five universities, "3.500 industrial monuments, 200 museums, 120 theatres 100 cultural centres, 100 concert halls and 2 famous musical theatres" ( - and only four of formerly 200 mines. But it remains open what exactly is meant be culture and what aspects of cultural activities contribute to the economic regeneration of a region. A paradigmatic case for such an impact of culture has been the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (Plaza 2000, 2008) which gave rise to the so-called Bilbao effect - the idea that the construction of a single building with an iconographic architecture can have a significant impact on the economic regeneration of an entire region.But it can be doubted that in other contexts a single cultural investment may have such an enormous influence on the regeneration of a region (Plaza 1999). Thus, it may be wise to expect only incremental changes even by huge cultural investments. Secondly, "culture" or cultural industries is a rather broad and vague concept. At least the role of culture as the core of more or less new industries - publishing, music, museums, archives, theatre and other entertainment activities are not really new - and the impact of culture on economic activities (for example the cross-fertilization of ideas) have to be distinguished. The question of the importance of "culture" for the regeneration of the Ruhr area thus has to be specified and concretized. Therefore, we will take in the following the example of one the hugest cultural investments in the Ruhr area in the , the construction of a new museum building for the Folkwang museum in Essen - which is one of the most renown museums for modern art in Germany. On the basis of eight interviews conducted in summer 2011, we will analyse the economic, the social and the symbolic contributions of a major cultural investment for the regeneration of an economic region.

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