Is Your Museum Like a Professor or a Therapist? An Afternoon with Alain de Botton

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Art museums are bastions of old world values: they collect and present great masters and artists as the highest examples of human creativity.  Yet many visitors find art museums lacking.  These guests wander aimlessly, searching for meaning amongst the hard facts: names, dates, and who-commissioned-what.  

Alain de Botton, and his colleague John Armstrong, are out to change that.  Joshua Rothman of The New Yorker spent an afternoon with de Botton at the Frick Collection.  Their conversations explored themes in de Botton’s book, Art as Therapy, and gave us an inside look at why art museums often fail to engage visitors.

So what do visitors want from art?  

We summarized Rothman’s article, “Alain de Botton’s Healing Arts,as we explore how museums can give visitors what they want from art — and become more relevant and engaging in the process.

Healing arts title page

Visitors just read labels and shuffle alongMuseums should resonate with visitorsHow museums should approach visitsDon't bore visitors.Therapy vs LessonsFocus on human emotions and needshuman-scalesMake art relatable.Art can help people work through emotions. museums should be inclusiveFind out what moves both the artist and the audienceHow museums can inspire.end shot

Download the PDF version of this summary here.

Alain de Botton’s Healing Arts” by Joshua Rothman originally appeared on The New Yorker website on November 19, 2013.

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