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Follow the money: cultural patronage and urban elite geographies

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Cultural patronage has since long been a domain where urban elites can showcase a sense of philanthropy. The paper develops a heuristic that starts from cultural patronage activities in order to trace urban elite households and their professional and residential characteristics. The heuristic is deployed in Brussels, Belgium, where we use cultural patronage listings from five key high-culture institutions as an empirical entry-point into urban elite geographies. Contrary to the common claim that current urban elites are global elites, our analysis shows a clear national reproduction of Brussels elites. Specific for Brussels is a remarkable level of nobility resilience, based on its more-or-less successful entanglements with haute finance as well as art market intermediary functions. Furthermore, the residential analysis suggests that elite reproduction also predominantly depends on socio-spatial segregation in inner-city neighborhoods, yet lacks morphological segregation strategies typical of enclave urbanism or super-gentrification generally found across global cities.
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Keywords: Brussels; Urban elites; cultural patronage; elite theory; super-rich

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography, Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium

Publication date: May 28, 2019

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