In Denmark, cultural life and the authorities have had a mutual commitment to one another since the Middle Age. The Reformation of 1536 transferred responsibility for culture from the Church to the Court. Until the June Constitution of 1849 and the advent of democracy, it was almost exclusively the King and the members of his court who, to varying degrees, showed interest in and funded culture.
Thus art and culture in Denmark already had a solid feudal tradition and a well-established infrastructure, consisting of absolutist secular and ecclesiastical cultural institutions, upon which to build.
The demise of Absolutism in 1849 transferred responsibility for culture from the Court to the state in the new Ministry for Church and Education, called the “Cultus Minestry”. The Ministry assumed control of a number of cultural institutions, including the Academy of Fine Arts and the Royal Theatre.
The Cultus Ministry was responsible for cultural affairs from 1849 until 1916. In 1916, responsibility for church affairs was transferred elsewhere, but cultural matters remained part of what was now known as the Ministry of Education up until 1961, when culture was granted its own ministry.
The development of public cultural policies and institutions in Denmark have since then been closely linked to Enlightenment Philosophy and the specific interpretation and implementation of these ideas by intellectuals and in the cultural and political movements that fostered Danish democracy and the welfare state. When Denmark adopted its first democratic constitution in 1849, responsibility for support to the arts and culture gradually shifted from the Royal Court to the newly constituted civil administration.
Cultural policies under the absolute monarchs was elitist, but cosmopolitan compared to the new bourgeois culture that emerged from the increasingly influential merchant and civil servant classes in Copenhagen around the middle of the 18th century. The bourgeoisie, which was predominantly Danish in contrast to the mainly German aristocracy, argued for a national orientation of cultural policy.
Parallel to the national dimension in the dominant bourgeois transformation a liberal movement of intellectuals, the so-called cultural radicalism, emerged in the capital of Copenhagen with focus on enlightenment, freedom of individual citizens and political republicanism.
After 1864, a cultural policy inspired by N.F.S.Grundtvig and his philosophy of one nation, one language, one people, afforded the Danish landowning class, whose political power had increased in step with its economic muscle, the opportunity to revitalise the otherwise practically moribund rural culture. The rural liberal culture they sought to promote was not a counterculture in opposition to bourgeois culture. It was more of a parallel culture, separate from the culture of the bourgeoisie, albeit allegedly with the same objective, i.e. to promote national sentiment.
The rapprochement between the Social Democratic labour movement’s class-based perception of culture and the Radical Party’s popular education philosophy, during the period of reconciliation in the 1930s, laid the political foundations for the formation of the welfare based cultural policy after WWII and the setting up of the Ministry of Culture in 1961. The price paid was that culture was now perceived and defined, first and foremost, as a national phenomenon.
Although the public cultural policy was a part of the post-war national construction process, the general objectives and means were defined in the universal concepts of enlightenment philosophy. What had not been culturally realised in the traditional bourgeois public sphere since the French Revolution and the revolution of 1848 should now be realised in the framework of the welfare state. Public cultural policy, initiated, financed and organised by the state and municipalities, was meant to guarantee artistic freedom and cultural diversity. Art, culture and publicly organised cultural institutions were thought as means for building up the cultural and aesthetic competence for all citizens and regions of the country, to enable them to take part in the development of a democratic welfare society.
Allocation of grants, through autonomous arts councils, experts committees, institutions and other “arm’s length” bodies, inspired by the Danish tradition of self- governance, were organised to guarantee the independence of arts and culture from economic and political interests.
As suggested by the original name of the first Danish Ministry of culture, The Danish Ministry for Cultural Affairs (Ministeriet for Kulturelle Anliggender) was created in 1961. Its role as a state authority was first and foremost created within a political and administrative framework designed to improve the conditions for the arts and culture, but not to interfere with the content. Neither politicians nor civil servants, but independent peer groups, should grant money to the arts, i.e. through The Danish Art Foundation (Statens Kunstfond) established in 1964. Ideally, the primary role of the cultural ministry was as an architect to build a house of culture with rooms for all. Various principles and strategies were implemented by different governments to realise this overall aim.
In the 1960s, the focus of Danish cultural policies was on the dissemination of professional art. The strategy was called democratisation of culture. The welfare state distributed cultural goods to all Danes, whether they lived in Copenhagen, small provincial towns, or urban districts. All parts of the country and all social groups were to have access to theatre, music, libraries, etc. of a high standard and provided by professionals. They were to have the opportunity to encounter and thereby learn to appreciate “art of good quality”. Therefore, state support of the arts should be given to the very best that the Danish artistic community produced. The same applied to the public cultural institutions and activities, whether organised on national, regional or local level.
However, it soon became evident that not all Danes appreciated what some considered as the “incomprehensible fine art of modernism”. As a result, a broader concept of culture was introduced into the cultural policies of the 1970s. The new ideal was conceptualised as cultural democracy. The strategy of cultural diversity showed more respect for cultural diversity and the right to pluralism. It guaranteed the right of creativity and self-expression.
Decentralisation was strengthened. Decisions on cultural policy should be taken as close to the citizens as feasible. The state should support amateur as well as professional activities. In a broader sense, it also meant that the state should support diverse cultural groups including minorities.
In the 1980s, the aims of cultural politics took another course. Cultural activities were often considered as tools to serve social purposes in line with the growing economic crises. Culture and the arts were to solve problems of unemployment, reintegration of young people etc.
From the 1990s, the social instrumentalisation of public cultural policies was combined with economic and political goals. Attracting tourists to support economic development and securing highly skilled employees to the creative industries in the globalised knowledge economies, were put forward in the agenda of public cultural policies. Performance contracts with cultural institutions and their management were introduced in the cultural arena to stimulate efficiency in the implementation of the overall aims.
The overall aim still was to support the creative arts, cultural education and research, cultural heritage, media etc. with the mission to promote general education and cultural development of the citizens. In 2003, the Ministry’s administration of the different councils for theatre, music and literature etc. were merged into a new common administrative construction called the Danish Arts Agency (Kunststyrelsen). As of 1 January 2012, the Danish Arts Agency has been merged, along with the Heritage Agency of Denmark and the Danish Agency for Libraries and Media, into a new agency called The Danish Agency for Culture. The separate councils for theatre, music etc. were put together in a common body called the Danish Arts Council (Kunstrådet) with the aim to stimulate a common platform for arts policy, like the national arts councils in Norway and Sweden. The goal was to facilitate better coordination among the individual councils and to create new inter-aesthetic approaches.
At the same time, the economic rationale of cultural policy has been still more emphasised as a part of the “experience economy” since the late 1990s. A new orientation in the policy of promoting artistic creativity was introduced by the report entitled Denmark’s Creative Potential 2000 (Danmarks kreative potentiale 2000) launched by the Danish Ministry of Culture together with the Ministry of Business and Economic Affairs, with the purpose “to draft a new joint agenda for cultural policy and trade and industrial policy”. The follow-up report Denmark in the Culture and Experience Economy – 5 new steps,published in 2003, strengthened this focus on the economic potential of art and culture as artefacts in the global experience economy and the formation of the new creative industries and social classes. This line has been improved by the present government parallel with the overall aim to give priority to professional arts policy, improving the conditions for the most talented artists and to develop new artistic talents.
‘De-concentration’ has been strengthened in recent years. Denmark is in the middle of a fundamental structural transformation of the public sector. The Local Government Reform (kommunalreformen), passed by the Parliament in 2005, has decreased 275 municipalities and 14 counties to 98 municipalities and 5 regions. The reform came into force on 1 January 2007 and will be fully implemented by 2012. According to the reform, the former cultural responsibility of the counties, now abolished, has been transferred to either the state level or the new municipalities. The new municipalities have been given the full political, administrative and financial responsibility to handle cultural institutions and activities with a natural local affiliation including libraries, museums, sport facilities, amateur activities etc. On the other hand the responsibility, financing and regulation of the 42 state institutions aremore clearly defined as a state obligation (see organigram A in chapter 1.2.1).
Finally cultural policies in Denmark have been rethought in light of globalisation, migration and digitalisation. The cultural discussion today is to a high degree focusing on what constitutes “danishness”, Danish cultural heritage and national identity as coherent narratives in a multicultural world. In 2005, the former Danish Minister for Culture, Brian Mikkelsen (2001-2008), compiled a comprehensive Danish Cultural Canon corresponding to the 7 main art forms within the Danish Ministry of Culture’s remit. The overall aim of the Danish Cultural Canon was to stimulate and consolidate national identity as a force of social cohesion and cultural assimilation of public dialogue, discussions and activities on identity and nationality (see chapter 2.1).
These guidelines continued to be pursued by Carina Christensen of the Conservative Party, who became Minister for Culture in September 2008. The new Minister placed a higher priority on improving the national aspect of social cohesion in local societies in the provinces of Denmark published in a new strategic plan Culture for All on 2 December 2009.
On 23 February 2010, the government undertook a comprehensive cabinet reshuffle, which saw the former Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller taking over as Minister of Culture. The new government presented the working programme Denmark 2020 – knowledge, economic growth, wealth, and welfare, including a passage on cultural policy priorities (see chapter 2.1).
The transformation of aims and measures in Danish cultural policy 1960-2012 may be summed up in 4 phases characterised by different values and strategies in the production and circulation of art, cultural and symbolic meaning in society: Dissimilation of the arts (1960-1975), stimulating local and amateur activities (1975-1985), social and economic instrumentalisation (1985-2001), economic and national revitalisation (2001-2012).
With the bourgeois-liberal government known as the VKO-government (2001-2011), primordial revitalisation of Danish national identity, deconcentration of the organisational structure and economic responsibility for cultural institutions, increasing private financing by sponsorship and donations, stimulation of the experience economy and securing high quality arts were the dominating values on which the public cultural policy in Denmark was built (see chapter 2.1).
On 3 October 2011, a new government consisting of the Social Democrats, Social Liberals and Socialist People’s Party, with Helle Thorning-Schmidt from the Social Democrats as the Prime Minister took over, with Uffe Elbæk (Social Liberal Party) as Cultural Minister. He is the founder of the internationally acclaimed school for innovative leadership, “Kaospiloterne” and for 20 years he has been a vital part of Danish cultural life through his membership of many committees. On 6 December 2012 Marianna Jelved replaced Uffe Elbæk as Danish Minister for Culture.
The new governmental programme A Denmark That Stands Together (DST), published in October 2011, states that Denmark is a country where respect between people regardless of their background is promoted. A prosperous Denmark is a Denmark where diversity thrives and this requires mutual respect, respect regardless of the difference between us – whether gender, age, faith or ethnicity.
The identity values introduced by the new government, as well as the economic crises, have given rise to debate on paradigms of identity displayed in public cultural policy, the role of arts and public cultural policy in late-modern societies dominated by migration, globalisation and Europeanisation. This is also the case with the distribution of economic resources especially to theatre institutions and the different fields of music (see chapter 2.1).
Main features of the current cultural policy model
The Danish cultural model can primarily be conceptualised as a variation of the architect model. According to the architect model, the state fashions the framework for a country’s cultural development through a ministry of culture, which follows overall policy objectives and approaches from a general perspective. Decisions about overall cultural policy are made – in theory – by the government, after public debate and representations to the minister and ministry of culture.
Cultural policy is designed to serve democratic objectives, training in democracy being considered an important social goal in itself, to guarantee artistic freedom by subsidising the arts and to promote equal access for all by funding centralised and decentralised cultural institutions. The state builds the house, but leaves it up to the tenants to decorate the rooms. The financial conditions faced by artists and permanent institutions depend primarily on public-sector funding and are, to a lesser extent than under the facilitator and patron models, subjected to commercial conditions in the form of sales of works, ticket sales, private donations or sponsorship. Although the high degree of public funding of the cultural sector is a characteristic paradigm of the Nordic cultural architect model, the present government has given high priority to improve the ticket-income of the institutions and to stimulate private investment and funding of cultural life. So the intention is to transform the Danish cultural model into a facilitator model (see The Nordic Cultural Model- Summary)
This transformation of cultural policy in the direction of a facilitator model has been a general trend in most European countries in recent years. However, in some respects, the Danish architect model continues to stand apart from other architect models in Europe:
- it is to a high degree a decentralised model. In 2006, approximately 2/3 of the public sector spending activities in arts and culture were financed by the municipalities (see chapter 7.1.2). The decentralised financing and implementation of the local cultural institutions, such as local heritage museums, local theatres etc., is being improved according to the decentralisation and recentralisation process of the new local governmental reform, although local cultural activities such as museums and libraries still have to be in accordance with laws decided by the government (see chapter 1.2.2); and
- there is great emphasis on the egalitarian dimension in cultural policy that means equal assess for all citizens to cultural goods regardless of income and settlement. The citizens’ equal access to participation has been emphasised as a main objective in all the governmental reports on culture from 1961–2012. Today, Denmark has a high proportion of people aged 15 years and older who have been to theatres, museums, art exhibitions, libraries, cinemas, concerts, galleries, historic sites and who access the Internet, e.g. approximately 70% of the population, over 15 years of age, had been at least once to a public library during the previous year (see chapter 6).
Cultural policy objectives
The idea of Danish cultural policies goes back to the European Enlightenment (and to the system of patronage in early modern Europe). With the advent of the welfare state post WWII, the political and cultural education of the people was raised to a matter of national interest. Funding the arts and similar cultural activities was seen as an instrument in the hands of politicians to pursue this goal. The people not only needed to be educated, but should be culturally informed. At the same time, the idea of a state funded cultural policy might appear illegitimate if the overall direction of cultural activities were not also linked to the interests of peoples and nations.
In a related, if slightly different phraseology, the same idea was expressed as the indispensability of cultural activities in the national fight against “the damaging consequences of the commercial cultural industries” – a fight for people’s souls. Indeed, a fight for the soul of the nation. Politicians and cultural experts feared that cultural industries like television, records, video etc. would catch the imagination of the public, causing a general disregard for high quality products and reduce the country’s potential for cultural diversity to entertainment and crude consumption (Duelund 2003, p. 489). The people should be saved from themselves’
The institutional thinking behind the establishment of the Ministry of Culture in 1961 was pragmatic and administrative. The official explanation was that the Ministry of Education, which previously had the main administrative responsibility for funding culture, was becoming too big an unmanageable from a cultural perspective. As a result, “it was considered appropriate to assemble the administration of all matters concerning culture under the auspices of a special ministry.” (Centraladministrationen 1960, White Paper 301, 39). The Ministry was also supposed to be responsible for, in conjunction with the universities, research, art and culture – an interesting starting point in light of the contemporary debate, in which calls have been made for a closer symbiosis between art, science and teaching.
However, no explicit objectives were defined as a starting point for the setting up of the Ministry of Culture. As suggested by the original name – the Ministry of Cultural Affairs – it was, and should be, merely a political and administrative framework designed to improve the societal conditions for culture, but not interfere with the content.
The overall objectives, therefore, must be sought in the history of ideas outside the Danish Ministry of Culture, in the laws of culture implemented since then (see chapter 4.2.1) and in the public cultural debate – The Danish Minister of Culture, Julius Bomholt, on the occasion of the opening debate of the Danish Parliament, in October 1963, set out to formulate the “arm’s length” principle as a motto for cultural policy, in order to allay suspicions among members of Parliament and others, who feared state control and political interference in the arts and cultural life generally:
A true cultural policy must be extremely liberal. If one wants to cultivate democracy, one must first democratise the structural conditions determining cultural activities based on the motto: “Funding yes, control no!” (Julius Bomholt, October 1963).
Although there have been several amendments in the legislation and regulation concerning Danish Cultural Policy since 1963, this overall objective has remained intact under the different governments since then.
From the middle of the 1990s, cultural policies were reinvested with new goals:
- to promote and tighten the link between arts and businesses;
- to reduce state regulation of the cultural industries;
- to encourage private patrons and companies to act as sponsors and purchase art and support art institutions;
- to increase the political regulation of arts and cultural institutions by means of performance contracts, via administrative centralisation and by transforming the “unspecified means” allocated on the basis of expert evaluation to “earmarked” pools for specified and politically defined purposes; and
- to revitalise the national dimension in cultural policy in order to strengthen the national identity of the people and promote social cohesion in response to globalisation, migration and individualisation.
Especially, cultural policy defined in terms of national identity policy has been vital in the periods 2001-2011 under the cultural policy of the different VKO- governments.
But the economic instrumentalisation, as well as the new public managements regulation of the cultural field in Danish cultural policy, was initiated by the Social Democratic / Social Liberal Government in the 1990s, before the VKO took over in 2001. A new orientation in the policy of promoting artistic creativity was introduced by the report entitled Denmark’s Creative Potential 2000 (Danmarks kreative potentiale 2000) launched by the Danish Ministry of Culture together with the Ministry of Business and Economic Affairs, with the purpose “to draft a new joint agenda for cultural policy and trade and industrial policy” (see chapter 2.1).
With the new governmental programme, and especially the visions of the new cultural Minister Uffe Elbæk, the primordial orientation of Danish cultural policy in the VKO- period 2001- 2011 seems to has been transformed to an more open and cosmopolitan direction, dominated by a modern conception of cultural diversity, citizenship and cultural policy (see chapter 2.1). On 6 December 2012 Marianne Jelved replaced Uffe Elbæk as Danish Minister for Culture.