Museums and art galleries appear to be and would claim to be open to all, and yet, in fact, they are visited only by a small segment of the population. Who are those whose love of art brings them into museums? What distinguishes them from the majority of people who exclude themselves or who are effectively excluded?

In this classic study, Bourdieu, Darbel and Schnapper address such questions on the basis of a wide-ranging survey of museum visitors throughout Europe. By examining the social conditions of museum practices, they show that cultivated taste is not a natural gift but a socially inculcated disposition which is distributed unevenly, and which predisposes some to distinguish themselves through their love of art, while others are deprived of this privilege.