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Global report published to probe the future of arts and culture sector

Visitors are pictured in front of an immersive art installation titled “Machine Hallucinations – Space: Metaverse” by media artist Refik Anadol. Reuters/Tyrone Siu

Future of Arts and Culture: Trajectories for the Next Decade is a qualitative probe into the future of arts and culture globally.

The study is based on the responses of 250 participants, leaders in museums, galleries, performing arts, music, funding organisations, curators and producers, from North America, South America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Collaboration

It was created by the Future of Arts and Culture project, which gives the study its name, a collaboration between Honor Harger Executive Director, ArtScience Museum, Singapore; Annette Mees, Artistic Director at Audience Labs and Visiting Senior Research Fellow in Culture and Creative Industries at King’s College London and Arup, Therme Group and Changeist.

The creators of the project have, over the past year, been examining emerging forces, drivers of change and possible impacts that may reshape the cultural sector in the coming decade.

Fog of global pandemic

“It emerged as a way to see past the fog of global pandemic, to better understand how existing and emerging pressures, innovations and models of culture might unfold — to understand different ways in which creators, institutions and audiences might come together as a results of these shifting forces and what these changes may mean for all aspects of art and culture ecosystems,” said Annette Mees.

“The world currently is complex, we are living with rapid change, economic shifts, social shifts, climate change and all these new digital infrastructures. In our view these are not superficial shifts but ones that really bring profound change in what we value and how we think about each other and power and equity.”

Respondents were provided with nine high-level drivers of change that are happening in the sector and asked to select one of these to explore multiple possible futures. From this the dominant views were turned into scenarios.

Futurescaper

To manage this Future of Arts and Culture used Futurescaper, which is a tool designed by MIT as part of its research into collective dynamics of foresight, that allows large groups to identify key drivers of change and what these may mean for important issues.

The study found that one driver of change in particular rose above all others and that was climate change.

“Unique among the many factors explored, it is the one issue that will touch almost all aspects— social demands, economic capacity, technological innovation, political agendas and public values,” it said.

“Economic and social dimensions of climate change are seen as driving more attention toward sustainable business models and new channels, and greater attention to societal awareness, costs, and impacts.”

The implication of this, the study found, is that arts and culture may take a back seat as a social and economic priority due to shifting political attention, social disruption and funding re-allocation.

Three scenarios

The study also presented three scenarios with the third concentrating on platforms and multiverses.

It says that rising to the challenges of an uncertain world, a new generation of creators are building on the foundations created in the early 2020s for a more transactional future where digital tools and platforms dominate attention and cultural commerce.

“This includes a broader definition of curation, reaching into new forms of digital artifacts, micro-heritage and rapid response collecting, expanded cultural R&D. In the shift to digital space, “community” takes on less geographic connotations, cultural borders are less constraining, and social value of art emerges as much from its innovative capacity as from focus on specific issues and themes.”

Following the study Future of Arts and Culture now plan to launch a publicly accessible portal for this work on its website and instigate and organise further discussions with sector leaders around the world for a deeper dive into the themes.

About the author – Adrian Murphy

Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.

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