Just Culture & High Reliability: The Initial Approach

Governments are using culture purely as a promotional tool rather than recognising its social value – and this is contributing to the rise of popularism, according to artist Olafur Eliasson.

States are exploiting culture for commercial gain, the artist told Dezeen, while failing to recognise culture's role in forging communities and shared values.

"The cultural ministry has become an extension of the export ministry and has failed to maintain culture," Eliasson said. "It is now used just to promote."

The Danish-Icelandic artist, who is currently based in Berlin, spoke to Dezeen at the opening of his first building in Denmark last month.

He claimed that European governments are neglecting culture as they see the sector as solely a means of promotion.

Public sector's use of culture is "promotional"

"The public sector's use of the culture sector has become more or less a promotional one," said Eliasson.

"It has failed to acknowledge that the cultural sector is the one that drives civic trust and social self-confidence. It is the culture that we have that gives us our shared identity."

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Earlier this year Olafur Eliasson completed his first building, a castle-like office in a Danish fjord. Photography is by Anders Sune Berg

The lack of attention being paid to creating a meaningful culture sector is leading to a loss of identity and contributing to the rise of popularism around the world, Eliasson said.

"Of course being an artist I say this, but I actually mean it quite seriously, because what gives society its gravity if not the cultural identity?" he said.

"The most and strongest muscle against popularism and polarisation is of course a strong sense of identity."

"Every finance minister should train by being a culture minister"

Eliasson is one of the world's most successful living artists. He has created installations across Europe including creating a giant waterfall at Palace of Versailles, and installing a rock filled landscape into Denmark's Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.

He has also worked on several architecture projects. As well as his new project in Denmark, he designed the Cirkelbroen bridge in Copenhagen and the facade of the facade of the Harpa concert hall in Reykjavík

Eliasson believes that artists should be more heavily involved in all areas of society and that culture should be given more importance in governments.

"I think generally I would like to see more artists being less marginalised and more drawn into the structure of our society," he said.

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