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7 Examples of High Culture

 , July 29, 2018 updated on April 29, 2023
High culture is culture that is accepted by authoritative institutions as being of the greatest value, importance and significance to humanity. The following are illustrative examples.

Fine Art

Fine art is art that is created for art's sake. That is to say, that it has no commercial purpose or constraints. The vast majority of fine artists never rise in the art world to gain status as high art. Recognition of contemporary art as high culture tends to be controversial because the art world often choose art that isn't appreciated by the public. This can result in public money being spent in unpopular ways. For example, Voice of Fire purchased by the National Gallery of Canada in 1990 for $1.76 million is a painting of a featureless red stripe on a blue background. This was perceived negatively by the Canadian public as a waste of public funds. Historical art is considerably less controversial as the opinions of the public and art critics tend to converge with time.
Anselmo Guinea, Group of People


Music is typically only considered high culture if it is based on a long standing tradition and performers have reached the top of their art. For example, classical music is based on Western musical traditions, particularly the period 1750 to 1820. Such music is extremely competitive as the definition of quality is precise and well understood such that a high level of refinement and style is required to gain recognition.
Filarmonica della Scala, Sayaka Shoji

Performing Arts

Performing arts, particularly theatre and dance, are viewed as a high art that are eligible to be considered high culture with acceptance by institutions such as a prestigious theatre. Theatrical productions that have primarily commercial goals such as a Broadway musical or West End theatre production aren't typically considered high culture.
Piedmont Ballet Academy


Films are expensive to make and are usually created with commercial goals. Such films can't typically be considered high culture. Films recognized as high culture are often independent films that were produced for the sake of storytelling. Producing such a work requires talent and deep enculturation in areas such as film making, direction, acting, storytelling and cinematography. Film festivals are the primary way of identifying those films that are accepted as high culture. Each film festival has its own level of authority based on its social status.
The Bicycle Thief, Vittorio De Sica, 1948


Unlike film, books are labor intensive but not capital intensive. This makes literature an extremely competitive field as a large number of people write books in any given year. There are three complementary paths to recognition of literature as high culture: critical acclaim, prizes and adoption as required or suggested reading by universities, colleges and K–12 curriculum.
New York Public Library, Fifth Avenue, New York City


Architecture is considered an art whereby buildings and other structures can be considered priceless artifacts of culture that enrich humanity. As with film, architecture is capital intensive and most projects have primarily commercial goals. Contemporary architecture may be considered high culture if it wins prestigious awards. Old architecture is high culture if it is accepted as an unusually compelling or important example of the cultural heritage of a people or place.
Sagrada Familia, Barcelona


Traditional fashions of an elite are often considered high fashion if such traditions remain alive. For example, bespoke tailors, haute couture and kimono makers that are recognized for their quality and preservation of tradition.
Eiunin Temple, Geiko Tsunemomo


The term high culture is associated with elitism and status seeking. For example, people who go to an opera for status as opposed to actual enjoyment.
The pop culture of today can become the high culture of tomorrow. For example, jazz was viewed as low culture in the 1920s but went on to become high culture.
Overview: High Culture
Culture that is accepted by authoritative cultural institutions as being of the greatest value, importance and significance to humanity.
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