Are the World's Leading Financial Centers Also Its Leaders in the Arts?

A new study examines whether a city's financial sector affects artistic success.

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Brendan McDermid / Reuters

To what degree are the world's leading financial centers also leading centers for the arts? A new study by Monika Skórska and Robert Kloosterman of the University of Amsterdam takes an empirical look.  

Many have noted a possible connection between the two. While some believe leadership in arts and finance are twin characteristics of leading global cities, others, mainly economists, argue that leadership in the arts comes only after and as a byproduct of economic leadership. Despite these assertions, the study points out, there has has been little systematic empirical research of the connection between finance and arts across global cities.

The study examines this possible connection in a set of large global cities, comparing the rankings to the Global Financial Centres Index and their own new measures of arts based on the frequency and scale of artistic events.

The first chart below (from the study) shows the top 36 world cities on the Global Financial Centres Index. London takes first, followed by New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Shanghai.

The second chart (also from the study) shows the top 36 cities on the authors' own Global Arts Centers Index. There is some overlap, but the lists are far from identical. New York takes first place, Berlin is second, and London drops to third. Tokyo takes fourth, and Paris fifth.

The researchers then plotted the two rankings on a single chart (below). The connection between finance and arts seems to hold only at the very top of the urban hierarchy — in the world's largest and most economically powerful cities, such as London, New York, and Tokyo, and to a lesser extent in San Francisco, Seoul, and Frankfurt.

Chart courtesy of study

The study concludes that:

All in all, even though we recognize a certain overlap between the Global Arts Centers and Global Financial Centers, we see it as not sufficient to conclude that the world of finance shapes the world of arts. There is no straightforward relationship between being a Global Financial Center and a Global Arts Center. A 44 percent overlap and a similar geographic pattern suggests that surely there are certain factors pivotal for development of Global Financial Centers that will be important for creating a thriving arts scene, Global Arts Centers, as well. We expect some factors such as urban population or the overall economic performance to be conducive to both a thriving financial sector and a flourishing arts scene. However, we see this as not sufficient to prove that a financial activity would actually drive cities’ arts activity, especially considering that some cities with an excellent performance as a financial center– i.e. Hong Kong, Singapore, and Shanghai – are still not appearing on our radar of Global Arts Centers. And vice versa, some of the most artistically exciting cities – Berlin, Vienna and Los Angeles are apparently driven by factors not directly related to financial services. They are exploiting other sources to thrive as Global Arts Centers.

The relationship between finance and arts is complex. While the two are related in the world's largest and most economically powerful cities, a number of patterns come through from this analysis. It is certainly not that artistic success simply follows from the level of development. Affluence does not in effect buy artistic success. There are quite a few cities that are financial centers but lack artistic excellence, while many of the world's leading artistic centers rank much further down on artistic success. European cities in particular seem to have higher levels of artistic excellence above and beyond their global economic and financial prowess. The study is an interesting start, but much more research needs to be done using better indicators and across a larger sample of global cities.

Top image: Brendan McDermid / Reuters

About the Author

  • Richard Florida is Co-founder and Editor at Large of CityLab.com and Senior Editor at The Atlantic. He is director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Global Research Professor at NYU. More
    Florida is author of The Rise of the Creative ClassWho's Your City?, and The Great Reset. He's also the founder of the Creative Class Group, and a list of his current clients can be found here