Is there anything more international than culture? People in countries all over the world know that Cervantes created Don Quixote, that disheveled, gentleman with his faithful squire forever in tow, “Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember”; Shakespeare’s “To be, or not to be”, from Hamlet, is equally well known around the globe.

And if we are going to talk about painting we must, needless to say, include internationally renowned Spanish artists Velázquez, Picasso and Dalí, alongside those from other countries such as Rembrandt, El Greco, Monet, Van Gogh and Warhol. And neither do the sculptures of Michelangelo, Bernini, Botero, alongside those of the Spaniards Berruguete, Chillida and Gargallo, go unnoticed in the far flung corners of the planet. And of course, we could go on with other artistic and cultural disciplines: performance, music, publishing and so on.

Spanish cultural sector


Aside from its importance as a driving force behind knowledge acquisition, this industry has a huge impact on macroeconomics in Western economies. In Spain, the culture sector accounted for 2.8 per cent of total employment in 2013, with 485,300 employees and 108,556 companies. According to the 2014 Annual Statement of Cultural Statistics, prepared by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, these figures, when taken together, represent 2.5% of GDP, or 3.4% of GDP of all economic activities linked to intellectual property.

In addition, Spain ranks eighth worldwide in terms of soft presence, according to the Report by the Royal Elcano Institute of Global Presence, which includes, among other matters, cultural indicators related to the export of audiovisual services such as film, radio, television, and recorded music. The importance of the cultural sector is so significant that the Strategic Internationalization Plan of the Spanish Economy, 2014-2015 has among its objectives the promotion of culture as a vital element of the international promotion of the Spanish Brand.

Spanish culture overseas


Museo del Prado. (C) Jon Jackson. Flickr

In 2013, Spain exported culture related goods and services to the value of 703.4 million euros; the rest of the European Union being the principal destination, accounting for 51.2% of all exports, followed by Latin America with 27.4%. Consequently, we can find a variety of international activities which generate economic value. For example, Spanish museums and art galleries generate significant income by loaning works to museums in other countries; a good example of this is The Prado which has opted for this measure as a means of raising funds during the current economic crisis.

Apart from those cultural works presented to the international market by public institutions, it is also important to highlight the contributions made to the international arena by Spanish artists from the private sector. For example, in the cinematographic sector, both international co-productions and the distribution of Spanish films overseas must be highlighted. In fact, in recent years Spanish films have grossed twice as much overseas as they have in Spain.

Still focusing on the audiovisual sector, it is also important to bear in mind the importance of the presence of Spanish television production in foreign markets. In exporting its successes in TV fiction, Spain has had a great impact internationally; for example, El Internado is shown on Japanese TV, Un Paso Adelante in France and Los Serrano in Finland; furthermore, Gran Hotel has arrived in the UK, France and Russia. In Italy, El secreto de Puente Viejo, Velvet, Víctor Ros, El Príncipe and El Tiempo entre Costuras have all attained success.


(c) Marta Maduiza. Flickr.

We can also see encouraging data in the Spanish publishing sector which is currently ranked fourth in the world behind the USA, the UK and Germany; publishing is the cultural sector which accounts for the largest share of Spanish GDP, 0.7% of the total 4%, ahead of music, cinema and the performing arts; and it accounts for 2.6% of employment. In fact, Spanish exports of the printed word are worth 526 million euros with principal markets being in the rest of the European Union and Latin America. Moreover, Spanish publishing houses have no fewer than 162 subsidiaries in 28 countries, over 80% of them in Latin America.

The overseas export of Spanish talent in cultural management is also significant; Many Spaniards have worked in managerial roles in some of the world’s most prestigious cultural institutions. We should highlight the work of Vicente Todolí as director of the Tate Modern Gallery in London and the Museo Serralves in Porto; Marta Gili, the current director of Jeum de Paume in Paris; Bartomeu Marí who has managed the Witte in Rotterdam; Nuria Enguita, who was a member of the governing board of the Bienal in São Paolo; Guadalupe Echevarria, former director of the Bordeaux School of Fine Art and Rosa Martínez, who previously ran the Bienal in Venice.

Institutions and programs which support the internationalization of Spanish culture

Institutions such as the Instituto Cervantes carry out a variety of activities with the objective of publicizing Spanish culture overseas. Furthermore, there are programs designed to develop the internationalization of this sector. For example, the society Acción Cultural Española (Spanish Cultural Action) has created the Programa para la Internacionalización de la Cultura Española (PICE) (Program for the Internationalization of Spanish Culture) which aims to facilitate the presence in Spain of prescribers, agents and professional and international programmers of prestige in the field of the Arts and culture, with the objective of developing agreements for programs and collaborations abroad.

Applications through this program can be made up to 31st May 2015. Also, since regional bodies such as EXTENDA have been launched, new international markets have opened up, as have the development of business opportunities in countries such as Morocco and France.

As we can see, the culture sector is an industry which can be embraced, offering many international opportunities. Are you ready to take part of it?