Arts minister Estelle Morris has denied plans to cut funding for national museums and galleries because they were too "elitist" and "middle class".
Ms Morris said more effort was needed to improve access
She praised "brilliant" national venues and dismissed reports that she wanted funds diverted to regional venues.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Ms Morris said she wanted more people to have access to the nation's artistic treasures.
"Without creativity, the quality of our lives would be a lot poorer," she said.
Some Sunday newspaper reports suggested she would use a speech on Thursday to criticise "middle class, elitist" institutions such as the British Museum and the National Gallery.
Venues such as the British Museum offer free admission
But Ms Morris said: "I live at a time when we have got some brilliant national institutions. Why should I want to deprive those to future generations?
"All my personal politics have been about treasuring excellence and making sure more people have access to them."
She said getting more people to appreciate "higher art" was not about "appealing to the lowest common denominator".
Attendances at some galleries and museums have risen by up to 70% since free admissions were introduced by the government.
"If you believe in the arts, and if you believe in culture, and if you believe in people, you don't actually think that for some people that they can't appreciate high art," she said.
"I don't think it's as easy as just free admissions. I think we have to do more to invite people in."
She said museums and galleries needed to make use of better descriptive facilities alongside artworks to improve visitors' appreciation.
Ms Morris is due to outline her vision for the arts in a speech at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on Thursday.