Art production and urban development: Can artists escape the logic of cultural gentrification thanks to collective forms of organization?

Riccardo Romano

Student thesis: Master thesis


Logics of cultural gentrification affect artists in many cities. This thesis aims at understanding if there is a way to contrast those logics and preserve artistic productions in urban environments. This research focuses on the case of the Copenhagen-based organization ‘Fabrikken’. The collective organizational form and the accommodating attitude of the artists at Fabrikken are believed to be a solution to the gentrification mechanisms. The case of Fabrikken is framed into the broader discourse on urban regeneration. Many postindustrial cities are trying to fill up the gap that manufactory industries left in the urban economies. According to part of the literature, the much-discussed ‘Theory of the Creative Class’ has lead to a misuse of creativity and cultural industries in regard to urban regeneration: shifting the focus on consumption rather than production, and increasing logics of cultural gentrification. Focusing on production, this thesis aims to contribute to the urban regeneration discourse with a specific example from the art industry, providing insights on how to preserve the art production. This thesis introduces the reader to the cultural industries through the review of the main theories about the topic. It explains why cultural production became so relevant in the new economy and how cultural innovation is influenced by geographical and social factors. Reporting examples from New York City, the literature review proceeds explaining how art and culture’s modus operandi triggers urban regeneration and therefore gentrification. The review ends showing the negative effects that the creative class has on the cultural district, reporting also the solutions applied so far. A qualitative method was used to address the research problem. The fieldwork carried out at Fabrikken included the gathering of data through interviews and observations. Due to the limitation of the study it has been decided not to generalize the results. However, the thesis concludes demonstrating how artists organized in collective forms, which also play an active role in the local communities, are more likely to contrast gentrification logics. In particular, artists benefit from knowledge spillovers and availability of improvisational space. Even if organized in a collective form, artists still play an important role in urban regeneration, but the artistic social realm results to be more private in comparison to the one described by the previous literature where artists are not organized together.

EducationsMSocSc in Management of Creative Business Processes , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages76