Hanoria O’Connell is a 21 year old who has been studying the Visual Culture pathway in the CIViC program. She has always had a passion for the world of visual culture and hopes to move on to a career in museum education or curating once she graduates and furthers her studies. The Creative industries and Visual culture course has taught her crucial theories and skills needed to work in the visual culture work sector. In addition to the education she received in the course, Hanoria was also given the opportunity in second year to partake in work placement in the education sector in the Hugh Lane Gallery which further solidified her desired career in museum education and curating.


Cultural snobs in Creative Ireland: The emerging cultural capital within the Irish middle class in 2023

The analysis of the relationship between Bourdieu’s theory on cultural capital and its effects on audience engagement with visual arts is a topic that has been continuously revaluated, critiqued and investigated by many researchers since the theories initial conception in 1977.

Building on from the already vast international research on this topic, this dissertation investigates what the audience engagement with three blockbuster art exhibitions reveals about the cultural capital of people aged 18-24 in 2023 Ireland.  In 2023, the creative arts in Ireland has received tremendous governmental funding and support alongside the introduction of governmental body 'Creative Ireland'. This dissertation has named this current era of cultural support after this body and analysed the engagement with three contemporary exhibits in order to investigate what it reveals about the cultural capital of young people living in 'Creative Ireland'.


To achieve this, this dissertation proceeds in four chapters which firstly, analysed the current environments for visual arts and young people in 2023 Ireland.  Secondly, contextualised the relevancy of Bourdieu’s theory and its nuances. Thirdly, examined the data from the dissertation’s research from surveys and interviews. And finally, studied the new emergence of cultural snobbery from the rise in the middle class using results from this dissertations methodology with support from prior research projects (Kerry McCall Magan). The exhibitions used were: Turner: the son is god in the National Gallery of Ireland (2022-2023), Fiona Kelly: A Demarcation of time in the Royal Hibernian Academy (2023), and Francis Bacon’s studio in the Hugh Lane Gallery (1998- present).


Based on the analysis taken, this research highlights the new emerging cultural capital that exists due to the rise of the middle class in Ireland. This new emerging cultural capital became evident in this studies research as results displayed a nation of highly engaged individuals who developed their identities around their cultural interests to differentiate themselves from their peers thus creating new cultural snobs.


Images source: From author, 2022.