Tainted museums: ‘selling out’ cultural institutions

Victoria Rodner, Chloe Preece

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This paper examines the role of museums as repositories of cultural meaning and symbolic capital. As educational and cultural institutions, museums serve to legitimise works of art within the frame of an art historical context. However, our comparative case study reveals how the taken-for-granted role of the museum as an allegedly unbiased platform for disseminating the arts can be usurped for economic or political ends. Using the cultural settings of the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Venezuelan art museum circuit, we examine via our case studies how legitimation in the arts may be jeopardised or misused if and when cultural institutions succumb to commercial and political pressures. By adopting a qualitative research design, we observe the macro-context in which institutional roles are defined and played out, and demonstrate the ideological discourses at play in the role of these cultural institutions as meaning-makers. Although they may be presented as neutral spaces, museums inadvertently serve to circulate socio-political views. How the institution manages these views and unavoidable macro-level forces will in turn influence the cultural credibility of the museum framework as a legitimising force on the cultural horizon. Attention is devoted to how these pressures can affect the production and consumption of art, offering an alternative perspective on the development of museum policies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-169
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing
Issue number2
Early online date24 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


  • Art
  • Museums
  • Macromarketing
  • Ideology
  • Cultural policy
  • China
  • Venezuela

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