Art as Therapy

The modern world thinks of art as very important, something close to the meaning of life. The symptoms of this elevated regard include the opening of new museums, the channelling of significant government resources towards the production and display of art, the desire on the part of the guardians of art to expand ‘access’ to works (especially for the benefit of children and minority groups), the prestige of academic art theory and the high valuations of the commercial art market.

A lot of collective effort, and many unspoken assumptions, led to this moment.

Despite all this, our encounters with art do not always go as well as they might. We are likely to leave highly respected museums and exhibitions underwhelmed, or even bewildered and inadequate, wondering why the transformational experience we anticipated did not occur. It is natural to blame oneself; to assume that the problem must come down to either a failure of knowledge or of a capacity for feeling.

We allege that the problem is not primarily located in the individual. It lies in the way that art is taught, sold and presented by the artistic establishment. Since the beginning of the 20th century, our relationship to art has been weakened by a profound institutional reluctance to address the question of what art is for. This is a question that has, quite unfairly, come to feel impatient, illegitimate, and a little impudent.

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