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How cultural capital, habitus and class influence the responses of older adults to the field of contemporary visual art

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Andrew Newman, Dr Anna Goulding, Professor Christopher Whitehead



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


This article explores the responses of 38 older people to contemporary visual art through the results of a 28-month study entitled, Contemporary Visual Art and Identity Construction: Wellbeing amongst Older People. A framework for the analysis is provided by previous work on the consumption of art and by Bourdieu's constructs of cultural capital, habitus and field. Five groups of older people, with a range of different backgrounds, were taken to galleries and their responses were recorded, transcribed and analysed. It is concluded that participants’ responses are influenced by their cultural capital, habitus and class—which, in turn, are affected by their life course experiences. Those who could not recognise the field (e.g., did not view contemporary art as “art”) created their own meanings that they associated with the artworks. Evidence indicates that group dynamics and class mobility are likewise important. Participants also used the experience to respond to real or anticipated age-associated deficits.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Newman A, Goulding A, Whitehead C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Poetics

Year: 2013

Volume: 41

Issue: 5

Pages: 456-480

Print publication date: 01/10/2013

Online publication date: 23/08/2013

Date deposited: 27/08/2013

ISSN (print): 0304-422X

ISSN (electronic): 1872-7514

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.poetic.2013.07.001


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