What price culture in Europe?
Valerio De Molli
Managing Partner, The European House-Ambrosetti, Milan, Italy
Milan, Italy--When people think of spending on culture or cultural projects, they automatically put it in the deficit column. I’d like to reconsider that, and make the case for spending on cultural heritage as a generator of revenue.
At a recent gathering in Florence, an outstanding showcase of Italy’s culture and history, cultural leaders from around the world, including heads of many of the world’s most important museums, came together to share their experiences and, in my case, frustration with the current state of spending for arts and culture. What we hoped to achieve in Florence was to bring the world’s attention to the dismal plight of some of the world’s most outstanding cultural heritage sites, and throw some light on the argument that culture is not merely a cost item on the balance sheet.
With the continuing and tragic loss of parts of the historic landmark city of Pompeii, Italians are asking why nothing was done to protect the national heritage treasure. The Minister in charge has attributed the damage to multiple factors, including shoddy reparations back in the 1950s, and subsequent budget cuts which prevented any renovation or reinforcement at the site. Recently in the news we have even seen protests at one of our country’s most famous cultural landmarks, La Scala in Milan, which will suffer greatly if projected government budget cuts to culture are carried out.
What we learned in Florence is that this is not the case in other parts of the world. Notably, Egypt is expanding and improving its national network of museums, suffering no budget cuts. Both Dubai and Qatar have announced plans to invest in major new museums, drawing both art and visitors away from the west to the benefit of the Middle East. And China is aggressively collecting old masters for show in its new museums.
Italy, especially, with historical monuments at every turn and a long western cultural tradition has a lot to lose if these attractions, these treasures, are left in a state of neglect—or if the great collections are transferred to far-off places, allowing others to benefit from them.
In France, former Prime Minister Laurent Fabius, Mayor of Rouen, was one of the leaders of an initiative to feature impressionism in Europe last summer, through art, music, acting, design, photography and sculpture. This new approach led to a spectacular increase in tourism to Normandy, as well as an increase in visitors to museums all over the region. This is an example of positive returns on cultural investment.
We at the European House-Ambrosetti have carried out a study on the cost of culture in several western countries, and our findings echo those of the French experience in Normandy. Precisely, we have concluded in the “Florens Index” that for every 100 Euros of GDP spent on culture, the return is 249 Euros. The study is a matrix of culture and environmental culture, media, networking and creative industries. We want to put forward the notion that the cultural heritage economy can be a new driver for growth. New incentives have to be created. Tax incentives are needed for building libraries, museums, places to be used for culture. We need to favor public-private partnerships. We can use temporary exhibitions to promote our culture, crafts and industry, and put Italian fashion, design and craftsmanship to work as ambassadors abroad.
What, if not culture, brings in the tourists, those visitors who pay to travel to our cities? Who travel with friends and family, stay in hotels and inns, eat every meal in our restaurants, and buy things to take home to remember their trip? This investment that we have calculated at 2.49 to 1, is not negligible and cannot be discounted in the wider budget context.
In Europe, the creative economy employs approximately 6 million people and generates a turnover of almost 700 billion Euros. The OECD has underlined how, in the past ten years, the cultural and creative sector has grown by percentages higher than any other manufacturing sector and in terms of added value, production and income represents between 2% and 6% of GDP. The creative economy represents 3.5% of all international trade, settling at values of around 450 billion dollars.
So let’s not overlook the importance of culture.
Please Download the PDF :
The Economy of Cultural
by The European House-Ambrosetti
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