"Art as Therapy"

October 21 2013

Image of "Art as Therapy"

Picture: Phaidon/Amazon

The indispensable Grumpy Art Historian has taken the trouble to read Alain de Botton's new book 'Art as Therapy', so you don't have to. For it is woeful. The GAH's money quote:

This book is not just bad; it's obviously bad. Its badness isn't disguised by dense prose and it doesn't hint at hidden depths.

De Botton even has advice for art dealers like me:

The task of the private gallery is a serious one: to connect purchasers with the art they need. The chief skill required for running a gallery should therefore be not salesmanship, but the ability to diagnose what is missing from the inner life of the client. The art dealer should strive to identify what kind of art a person needs to rebalance themselves and then meet that need as efficiently as possible. 

The key activity of a dealer would be to conduct consultations sessions that would reveal the state of the client's soul. Before one can know what someone should buy, one has to know who they are, and more importantly, what areas of their psyches are vulnerable. The role of the art dealer would overlap with that of a therapist. The standard layout of a commercial gallery would evolve to include a therapy room, which one might need to pass through before getting to see any works for sale. Thus the dealer would operate as a matchmaker, bringing together an inner need of the client with a work best able to assuage it.

Update - a reader writes:

Yes, but the book is surely a satire, like Swift on Irish children to be eaten or Machiavelli satirizing the Medici in "The Prince", right?  Oh, I forgot, Swift and Machiavelli actually had a sense of humour, if somewhat dark.....

Update II - another reader writes:

I was at Alain de Botton's event at the National Gallery on Friday night. There he claimed that he has been invited to re-hang the entire Rijksmuseum according to his new curatorial for the period April - September 2014!

 One of the many things that surprise me about de Botton's mission is that he seems blissfully unaware that his big 'themed hang' idea is more or less standard pratice when curating exhibitions these days - I've lost count of the number of times I have grumbled that I "would have preferred a chronological arrangement".

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