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Art as Therapy

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What is art for? In the engaging, lively, and controversial new book, bestselling philosopher Alain de Botton, with art historian John Armstrong, proposes a new way of looking at art, suggesting that it can be useful, relevant, and - above all else - therapeutic for its audiences. De Botton argues that certain great works of art offer clues on managing the tensi What is art for? In the engaging, lively, and controversial new book, bestselling philosopher Alain de Botton, with art historian John Armstrong, proposes a new way of looking at art, suggesting that it can be useful, relevant, and - above all else - therapeutic for its audiences. De Botton argues that certain great works of art offer clues on managing the tensions and confusions of everyday life. Art as Therapy is packed with 150 examples of outstanding art, with chapters on Love, Nature, Money, and Politics outlining how these works can help with common difficulties. For example, Vermeer's Girl Reading a Letter helps us focus on what we want to be loved for; Serra's Fernando Passoa reminds us of the importance of dignity in suffering; and Manet's Bunch of Asparagus teaches us how to preserve and value our long-term partners. De Botton demonstrates how art can guide and console us, and along the way, help us to better understand both art and ourselves.


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What is art for? In the engaging, lively, and controversial new book, bestselling philosopher Alain de Botton, with art historian John Armstrong, proposes a new way of looking at art, suggesting that it can be useful, relevant, and - above all else - therapeutic for its audiences. De Botton argues that certain great works of art offer clues on managing the tensi What is art for? In the engaging, lively, and controversial new book, bestselling philosopher Alain de Botton, with art historian John Armstrong, proposes a new way of looking at art, suggesting that it can be useful, relevant, and - above all else - therapeutic for its audiences. De Botton argues that certain great works of art offer clues on managing the tensions and confusions of everyday life. Art as Therapy is packed with 150 examples of outstanding art, with chapters on Love, Nature, Money, and Politics outlining how these works can help with common difficulties. For example, Vermeer's Girl Reading a Letter helps us focus on what we want to be loved for; Serra's Fernando Passoa reminds us of the importance of dignity in suffering; and Manet's Bunch of Asparagus teaches us how to preserve and value our long-term partners. De Botton demonstrates how art can guide and console us, and along the way, help us to better understand both art and ourselves.

30 review for Art as Therapy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    This book is simplistic, maddening, provocative, and eccentric. It is also Utopian, contradictory and overly-ambitious.... Finally, it is also fun, stimulating and refreshing.... For me this book is all of these things. Alain de Bottan and John Armstrong argue that we need artists to teach us about the loves, fears and foibles of the human condition. Of course a lot of artists do that already, but they want them to do it MORE. They also feel that we (the great unwashed public), need to listen more to art cri This book is simplistic, maddening, provocative, and eccentric. It is also Utopian, contradictory and overly-ambitious.... Finally, it is also fun, stimulating and refreshing.... For me this book is all of these things. Alain de Bottan and John Armstrong argue that we need artists to teach us about the loves, fears and foibles of the human condition. Of course a lot of artists do that already, but they want them to do it MORE. They also feel that we (the great unwashed public), need to listen more to art critics, the better to elevate our tastes and open our mind to genres we might otherwise ignore. Plus art galleries should stop telling us about the history of pictures and tell us about the emotion of pictures instead. They also wants the eradication of bad or sleazy design and architecture - from gizmos in the home to mall buildings - something he hopes we will insist upon as we get better educated. Anyway herewith some images and ideas from the book so you can have a taster of what's on offer... (view spoiler)[ Jan Gossaert - An Elderly Couple. A picture that teaches us about frailty of memory. "We face the strange but deeply significant fact that the issues that loom so large in our lives today, the days that seem to spread out and the hours of intensity or listlessness, will all eventually be minute, scarcely remembered details of a distant past.....In Jan Gossaert's portrait each face shows, in slightly different ways, the weight of the life they have led. On the man's cap there is a small golden badge, on which is wrought an overtly erotic image of a much younger, naked couple. The badge is like a memory, now small and far away, of the couple as they were at the very start of their relationship. Jessica Todd Harper - The Agony in the Kitchen Another picture to help us come to terms with everyday human events. The photographer here shows one of the typical disruptive scenes that people experience in relationships, and we are offered the opportunity to identify, and feel less isolated when we too experience these problems and difficulties in our relationships. Bernd and Hilla Becher - Water Towers, 1980, "The challenge for modern artists is to open our eyes to the charms of modern landscapes, which means, predominantly, landscapes marked by technology and industry. The Bechers devoted themselves to producing beautiful, spare images of bits of the industrial landscape no one had previously paid much attention to. The titles of their books capture their incongruously technical interests: Water Towers, Blast Furnaces, Pennsylvania Coal Mine Tipples, Gas Tanks..... After several decades of neglect their work eventually caught on. They acquired a gallery in New York, the Museum of Modern Art picked up some of their work, and they are now firmly in the pantheon of fashionable artists of the 20th century." Gerrit Rietveld - Red Blue Chair 1923 Rietvelt was interested in mass production, and bringing nice things into people's homes. He was suspicious of art museums and the snobbery they attracted. It is ironic therefore that most of his work is now to be found in museums. Botton says "The mission of the true art lover should be to reduce the relative importance of museums....the wisdom and insight currently collected there shouldn't be so jealously guarded and fetishized, but instead scattered generously and promiscuously across life." (hide spoiler)] I agree and disagree with this book almost in equal proportion, but I have taken enough from it to consider it a worthwhile read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tomas Ramanauskas

    Here’s a summer book you need: reassuring and coherent. “Art as Theraphy” tackles simple thesis, that art should be a helping hand, a shoulder we can lean on in life. It doesn’t mean it has only to comfort, or inspire hope, it can be unpleasant, political, shocking, but according to Alain de Botton & John Armstrong, it can and should change/enhance how we experience the world. In other words, it is “a promotion of a sensory understanding of what matters most in life”. How big, how beautiful. Here’s a summer book you need: reassuring and coherent. “Art as Theraphy” tackles simple thesis, that art should be a helping hand, a shoulder we can lean on in life. It doesn’t mean it has only to comfort, or inspire hope, it can be unpleasant, political, shocking, but according to Alain de Botton & John Armstrong, it can and should change/enhance how we experience the world. In other words, it is “a promotion of a sensory understanding of what matters most in life”. How big, how beautiful. And one more paradox, at which duo arrive at the very end of the book. In ideal circumstances, the better, the more effective the art, the less we will need it. Until then — let’s visit some galleries.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Geri Degruy

    de Botton and Armstrong posit that art can be helpful to our lives in a number of psychological ways. They outline seven functions of art: 1. Remembering 2. Hope 3. Sorrow 4. Rebalancing 5. Self-understanding 6. Growth 7. Appreciation How can art help us to love better? How can it prepare us for aging and other life changes? What if museums were set up with emotion-galleries: of joy, love, sorrow, compassion? What if the blurbs next to the art de Botton and Armstrong posit that art can be helpful to our lives in a number of psychological ways. They outline seven functions of art: 1. Remembering 2. Hope 3. Sorrow 4. Rebalancing 5. Self-understanding 6. Growth 7. Appreciation How can art help us to love better? How can it prepare us for aging and other life changes? What if museums were set up with emotion-galleries: of joy, love, sorrow, compassion? What if the blurbs next to the art discussed the turmoil or joys the models were experiencing rather than simply history? What if artists purposely chose positive, life-affirming themes for their work most of the time? These are just some of the many important questions they ask and answer with grace and intelligence. They believe art can promote good values, that art can change people, that art can change the world. An excellent read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Beenie

    This is the art book I've been looking for. It talks about the purpose of art alongside a few key paintings and doesn't treat art like a science with dates, historical context, and isms that are detailed and ultimately forgettable. There are some really itneresting ideas scattered throughout, such as a museum organised by emotional states instead of chronology, and how art can make us better lovers (by teaching us patience, attention to details, and curiosity).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    The book is an interesting provocation to those of us that work in the visual arts. De Botton and Armstrong’s chief criticism of curators and art historians is that we don’t make art relevant or accessible to audiences. On that score, they make a very good and useful point. The popularity of this book demonstrates their case. The trouble is the solution the book proposes is a very utilitarian approach to art. According to the authors we should look at art to solve our personal problems, rather t The book is an interesting provocation to those of us that work in the visual arts. De Botton and Armstrong’s chief criticism of curators and art historians is that we don’t make art relevant or accessible to audiences. On that score, they make a very good and useful point. The popularity of this book demonstrates their case. The trouble is the solution the book proposes is a very utilitarian approach to art. According to the authors we should look at art to solve our personal problems, rather than being stretched by the very foreign thoughts, feelings, and aspirations of others. The accounts of both art and therapy are a bit reductive.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Judith Huang

    Although the idea behind the book: that art should be used to improve humanity - is intriguing, I found the lecturing style of the prose to be tiresome and self-righteous in a particular, post-enlightenment effete intellectual atheist way. De Botton seems to imply that he knows best for everyone. While I enjoyed his interpretations of art and objects, they are pretty idiosyncratic and any museum curated by him would be way too propagandistic for my tastes.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Durkin

    A useful exploration of the ethical possibilities of art. These sentences, toward the end, really summed it up for me: "Proper appreciation of the benefits of art must involve an awareness of when to put art aside. At a certain point, we should leave the museum, or the sculpture in the park, to pursue the true purpose of art, the reform of life; not because we are ungrateful or unappreciative, but because we have found much that is genuinely precious in art, and that we need to make m A useful exploration of the ethical possibilities of art. These sentences, toward the end, really summed it up for me: "Proper appreciation of the benefits of art must involve an awareness of when to put art aside. At a certain point, we should leave the museum, or the sculpture in the park, to pursue the true purpose of art, the reform of life; not because we are ungrateful or unappreciative, but because we have found much that is genuinely precious in art, and that we need to make more real." Much to explore here--though the understanding of "art" is limited to the visual arts, and in places the argument has a decidedly European, high culture bias, giving short shrift to the fact that the experience of art is individuated and idiosyncratic.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Vivek Tejuja

    It is the end of the year and I close the year with a book I just finished and cannot stop talking or thinking about – “Art as Therapy” by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong. May be a lot of people know Alain and are aware of what and how he writes and then there are others who are yet to discover his style and works. I envy the latter set of people. They are so lucky to discover his works and his line of thought. At the same time, because this book is co-written, it is always good to see anothe It is the end of the year and I close the year with a book I just finished and cannot stop talking or thinking about – “Art as Therapy” by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong. May be a lot of people know Alain and are aware of what and how he writes and then there are others who are yet to discover his style and works. I envy the latter set of people. They are so lucky to discover his works and his line of thought. At the same time, because this book is co-written, it is always good to see another perspective, in this case of John Armstrong. Alain de Botton according to me is a master at what he does – he integrates human behaviour across a range of topics and we have witnessed that through his works. “Art as Therapy” on the other hand is a different matter altogether. “Art as Therapy” speaks of art in the manner, which is accessible to everyone. It is not about wine glasses in hand and appreciating something on the wall, and acting all pretentious. It is about nonetheless, life and how we live art and also sometimes its therapeutic and redeeming nature in our lives. The bigger question that the book seeks to answer is: What is art’s purpose? What does it do or not do for humans? Why is it needed at all? In this book, de Botton covers different aspects of life through art – love, nature, money, and politics and how art acts as a catalyst to solve the daily worries of life. A photograph then becomes more than a photograph. A painting then becomes something that you connect with so strongly, that you can never let go. Alain looks at everyday problems, everyday issues and uses art to solve them. May be solve is an incorrect term here, he uses art to get an understanding of life and then perhaps cure the soul. With examples and more illustrations throughout, Alain and John reveal how we as humans cannot lose sight of the bigger things, and how sometimes art is the only solace. They talk about looking at art with fresh eyes and viewing it the way you never would have thought of. Each painting, each art form transforms itself in their hands and that is more than reason enough to read this book. They show us how art heals us in ways we cannot even imagine. Art is then an imperative force in our lives, which perhaps we do not pay attention to – given the hustle-bustle of our technology-ridden lives. They remove art from the shallow galleries and bring it out to readers and the so-called common man through this fascinating concept and even more wondrous book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Gaylord Dold

    de Botton, Alain; Armstrong, John. Art as Therapy, Phaidon Press Ltd., London and New York, 2013 (239pp. $39.95) At the turn of the 20th century an Arts and Crafts movement, born in England as a response to the ailments of the Industrial Revolution and its factory slavery and inferior material culture, had spread to the United States the gospel of good taste and self-fulfillment through the creation and appreciation of beautiful objects. Through technical education and the promotion o de Botton, Alain; Armstrong, John. Art as Therapy, Phaidon Press Ltd., London and New York, 2013 (239pp. $39.95) At the turn of the 20th century an Arts and Crafts movement, born in England as a response to the ailments of the Industrial Revolution and its factory slavery and inferior material culture, had spread to the United States the gospel of good taste and self-fulfillment through the creation and appreciation of beautiful objects. Through technical education and the promotion of quality products, the structural conditions of factory capitalism could be changed to make craftsmanship possible. As devotees put it, “The philosopher goes to work and the working man becomes a philosopher.” Put another way, the craft impulse would disperse through millions of consumers and factory workers so that they might find in their home projects wholeness, autonomy and joy---feelings and emotions they fail to find in their domestic drudgery. A similar noble sentiment, backed by a program that smacks of the Kantian imperative, is at the heart of Alain de Botton’s new book about the uses of art, by which he means primarily visual arts like painting and sculpture, but including design and architecture. Botton is one of three new moral psychologists (the others are Malcolm Gladwell and Goeff Dyer) who are using their considerable literary and artistic powers to re-design the “self-help” genre into a kind of intellectual cat-and-mouse game that, while harnessing powerful rational arguments to the front-end of very controversial propositions, unleashes a disconcerting array of illuminating, sometimes puzzling, and always stimulating slants on modern reality. This time Botton, in league with Australian philosopher and art theorist John Armstrong, boldly proposes that art has a clear function: it is a therapeutic tool to help us lead more fulfilled lives. The book’s argument asks us to accept the premise that while we think of art as very important, at the same time, most of our encounters with art, especially in the elevated atmosphere of museums or in the speculative auction houses in European capitals and New York, tend to be either tedious or disappointing, or both. We wonder, Botton argues, why we feel underwhelmed when the transformational experience we anticipated does not occur. Botton argues that we’re not to blame; but, rather, the problem lies in the way that art is taught, sold, and presented by the art establishment. What is art for anyway? And why did that Monet just sell for seventy million dollars in Zurich? The authors of Art as Therapy answer this question by arguing that art is a tool (like any other human tool) that expands our capacities beyond those nature originally endowed us with, compensating thereby for certain inborn weaknesses, in the case of art those of the mind rather than the body, weaknesses the author refer to as psychological frailties. Art as Therapy proposes our seven human frailties: remembering, hope, sorrow, rebalancing, self-understanding, growth and appreciation. These frailties hamper us. We can’t see our way through the muddle of the office-cube, Junior High, jammed freeways, noisy rooms, crooked politicians, unhappy love affairs. Who or what is to answer our basic human questions---Why is my work not more satisfying? How can I improve my relationships? Why is politics so depressing? Why are other people happier than me or why do they have more glamorous lives? These questions, among many others, are the questions that art can answer for us if it is appreciated, displayed, and recommended by the establishment, as a therapeutic tool. Art as Therapy is a sight to behold, designed to investigate with art’s help our most vexing difficulties---love, money, grief, courage for the journey, patience, mindfulness, ambition, even the reformation of the capitalist enterprise in a very gentle, non-revolutionary way, of course. Illustrated brilliantly, the book is the ultimate didactic treatise. The authors would have museums organized not on historical lines (…here is 17th century Flemish art etc.), but rather on psychological themes. The first floor could be about love, the second about work and relationships. There could be a hallway for those beset by problems of narcissism and self-loathing, even a room or two for misers or Goldman Sachs traders. As with most of the work of Botton (he has written books about Proust, religion for atheists and philosophy), the arguments feel more like straitjackets than anything else. This feeling is nowhere more evident that in Art as Therapy—after all, the book ends with a “hypothetical commissioning strategy” and an “agenda for art”, subsuming most of the problems we think of as moral and psychological that plague us as human beings. Botton also makes an unfortunate proposal concerning censorship, arguing that we in the West already have complete freedom of expression, which could use a little reining in. Who should rein us in? Botton answers that we should give the task to the “very same people who decide tax policy, workplace safety regulations and the highway code.” Thanks, but no thanks, to that. Yes, most of us would like to be happier, more autonomous, less plagued by doubts, loneliness and envy. We’d like to live in cities that are commodious and natural, though many, no doubt, find noise, trash and busy streets perfectly fine. But sadly for Botton’s program, the overwhelming majority of human beings have little time for fine arts like painting, music and design. Getting, having, fighting, struggling for the dollar, envying the guy in the next cube and hating the boss, it’s all a stressful whorl. And while many artists and architects probably hope their work does good in the world, that hope is at best either inchoate or unconscious. And of course, the art world itself is a messy thing, not well-suited to “agendas”. Surely, an appreciation of great art can improve our lives. But just as surely, there is no sure path to that end. Botton’s beautiful book, with its beautiful four-color plates, its pleasing, forceful style and its Platonic certainties, is a kind of moral Tinkerbell perched on our shoulders, waving her wand and spreading magic fairy dust, but ready at any moment to kick our art back into line.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Thank you, AdB and JA, for opening my eyes further than I thought possible (like pretty much all of AdB's books), and not just with something that I'd never thought about, but with something that had always presented quite a struggle. This book presents a way -- a true 'via real' -- out of the swamp of illogic, pedantry, gibberish and fraudulent posturing that characterize most professional writing about art from the critical, academic, and commercial sectors. The book is lucid, logical, and ins Thank you, AdB and JA, for opening my eyes further than I thought possible (like pretty much all of AdB's books), and not just with something that I'd never thought about, but with something that had always presented quite a struggle. This book presents a way -- a true 'via real' -- out of the swamp of illogic, pedantry, gibberish and fraudulent posturing that characterize most professional writing about art from the critical, academic, and commercial sectors. The book is lucid, logical, and inspiring...and I only agree with 50% of what it says!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anna Belsham

    Started off enjoying this and then the point that art can help us with life's stresses and tribulations got so tenuous it broke. I can see why Gwyneth Paltrow liked it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Victor

    We should think less about art and more about how to bring the values that the pieces portray out into the world. This book has given me an interesting perspective of art and its practical application on our lives and society.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Hristina Lapatova

    It was a true delight to read this book. Definitely recommend to any art lover

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nathalie

    4,5 / 5 | Such a nice and interesting way to recognize art; really helpful to know about all those things in my opinion. If you are one of those people who think art is not important: reading this book will change your mind!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    What can I say? This book ticks my boxes. Philosophising on art and life and how they interact... it's my jam.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marianela

    I absolutely LOVED and Love this book

  17. 5 out of 5

    Danielle Frimer

    Yup. A clear call to action for artists. Refer back to this when wondering "why" and also for ideas of "what" (Appendix at the back). Interesting stuff to chew on about how the purpose of artists (like therapists) should be for a world where less art (/therapy) is necessary. Also found the section on careers interesting/confusing. Don't make a career in art, he seems to say, but apply the values of artists/art to other domains - business, policy, tech (to extend...) This is where beauty/truth/ki Yup. A clear call to action for artists. Refer back to this when wondering "why" and also for ideas of "what" (Appendix at the back). Interesting stuff to chew on about how the purpose of artists (like therapists) should be for a world where less art (/therapy) is necessary. Also found the section on careers interesting/confusing. Don't make a career in art, he seems to say, but apply the values of artists/art to other domains - business, policy, tech (to extend...) This is where beauty/truth/kindness may end up having the most efficacy. Art is hung in museums. Theater is performed in theaters (extending, again). But how do you fight to maintain these values in domains where they are not the norms? He doesn't answer this for us.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Afshin

    A beautifully crafted set of articles, aligned with Alain de Button’s famously known practical interests, to show how Art can help us to be better humans and having a better society. “Art as Therapy” certainly is a must-read book which may transform the way we confront with the Art in its various forms. A book that amazingly and paradoxically leads to its final lines that “The ultimate goal of the art lover should be to build a world where works of art have become a little less necessary”.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    Midway through Art as Therapy I started having deja vu. I remembered that I read another Alain de Botton book like ten years ago and I ended up with the same feeling of, oh wow, these could be really interesting and compelling ideas if they a) weren't so didactic, and b) if they were better supported. I mean, I love art and I meditate and de Botton does make a pretty fair attempt to show how art can illustrate some ideas that come out of mindfulness and the Buddhist philosophy that ultimately un Midway through Art as Therapy I started having deja vu. I remembered that I read another Alain de Botton book like ten years ago and I ended up with the same feeling of, oh wow, these could be really interesting and compelling ideas if they a) weren't so didactic, and b) if they were better supported. I mean, I love art and I meditate and de Botton does make a pretty fair attempt to show how art can illustrate some ideas that come out of mindfulness and the Buddhist philosophy that ultimately underpins mindfulness, such as being present, acceptance of life as it is and care for one's fellow humans and the world around us. All well and good, so why does the end product end up being so not compelling? In Art as Therapy, de Botton and John Armstrong start from the premise that art should have an intrinsic purpose and, although they acknowledge that this is terribly unfashionable in today's understanding of art, they never bother to discuss how we got here. In other words, how we moved from the Renaissance conceptualization of art as a didactic (i.e. instructing what and how to live) entity to one that has no intrinsic meaning. It's because people are all different and see all sorts of different things in art! No one person (or two people, in this case) or entity can determine what's on view in all art, particularly when it comes to art as an illustration for deep, philosophical issues. This is pretty basic and kind of puts the rest of his book into question for me. They also pick of bunch of varied and interesting works to illustrate their points, and then almost always fail to explain how they've reached the conclusions that they've reached based on actually looking at the art. Even more distressing is that almost everything they pick is from a Western art tradition, not to mention that a hugely overwhelming proportion of the artists discussed in the book are male. I know that there are some issues with the art canon that kind of sways discussion towards white, male artists and I don't single handedly expect de Botton and Armstrong to address this. I just want them to acknowledge it, and acknowledge how taste is influenced by power and that power then reinforces its own taste. Ultimately, I think there's a strong argument to be made that the approach in this book is deeply regressive without necessarily being aware of that - arguing for a centralized approach to teaching people about life, illustrated through an exclusionary art canon. It's too bad because it's a physically beautiful book with lots of nice, full colour image reproductions and I really enjoyed reading it at first because it is fairly well written and, especially for a book that is ostensibly art history, clearly argued. Then, the arguments in the book became a bit repetitive and I got bored. This was exacerbated by the quality of the arguments declining over the course of the book. The parts of the book that deal with internal issues (i.e. stuff people usually go to therapy for) were pretty interesting. The external issues (i.e. economics, politics) were not so well argued because the issues were too complex for the level of care they were given in the writing. For example, the final chapter on political art basically argues that everything is political. It goes so far as to claim that being nice to people is a political act. No, that is basic human decency, which is not political. To me, this denigrates the true meaning and purpose of politics. And right now, I am very concerned about the meaning of politics.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Shadi

    The idea of using art as a psychotherapy is new to me and interested me but I can't say I was wowed by this book. I, as a novice philosophy and psychology, enjoy Alain de Botton books mildly and appreciate his efforts in bringing these concepts and their application to our everyday life.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Brynn

    "A sense of the sublime in our ordinary lives is usually a fleeting state, one that occurs more or less at random. On the motorway we catch sight of the sunlight breaking through rain clouds over a distant hill; on a plane we glance away from the in-flight entertainment and notice the Bernese Alps or the lights of oil tankers across the Singapore Strait. Art can mitigate randomness and chance, though, for it provides tools for generating helpful experiences on a reliable basis, so that we can ha "A sense of the sublime in our ordinary lives is usually a fleeting state, one that occurs more or less at random. On the motorway we catch sight of the sunlight breaking through rain clouds over a distant hill; on a plane we glance away from the in-flight entertainment and notice the Bernese Alps or the lights of oil tankers across the Singapore Strait. Art can mitigate randomness and chance, though, for it provides tools for generating helpful experiences on a reliable basis, so that we can have continuous access to them whenever we are able to look up from our sadness." (30) "One of our major flaws, and causes of our unhappiness, is that we find it hard to take note of what is always around. We suffer because we lose sight of the value of what is before us and yearn, often unfairly, for the imagined attractions of elsewhere." (59) "It lies in the power of art to honor the elusive but real value of ordinary life. It can teach us to be more just towards ourselves as we endeavor to make the best of our circumstances: a job we do not always love, the imperfections of middle age, our frustrated ambitions and our attempts to stay loyal to irritable but loved spouses. Art can do the opposite of glamorizing the unattainable; it can reawaken us to the genuine merit of life as we're forced to lead it." (62) "In this new way, the artist becomes the choreographer of an experience you might have, rather than a recorder of an experience they once had." (156) "Art is turning from creating memorials to, or representations of, nature towards creating opportunities for the closer or more meaningful perception of nature." (158) "The ultimate ambition of our engagement with art is that we should find ways to enact the values of art in the world." (230) "Good relationships, elegant cities, work that is honorable and emotionally satisfying, as well as financially rewarding, are the true works of art, to which the objects we call art are only pointers and partial guides." (231)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alex Ehrler

    Though I agree with De Botton's belief that art helps us cope with certain "psychological frailties", I find that I cannot agree with his interest it creating a utopian society around art as therapy. I am an artist, myself, and I create art, yes, to cope with my personal struggles and my conflicts with the world at large... However, De Botton's desire to use art as a tool to "fix" what is wrong in our world today troubles me, deeply. His proposal trivializes what I hold most dear, and Though I agree with De Botton's belief that art helps us cope with certain "psychological frailties", I find that I cannot agree with his interest it creating a utopian society around art as therapy. I am an artist, myself, and I create art, yes, to cope with my personal struggles and my conflicts with the world at large... However, De Botton's desire to use art as a tool to "fix" what is wrong in our world today troubles me, deeply. His proposal trivializes what I hold most dear, and makes it something mechanical, rather than spiritual. Yes, I believe he's right in saying that art is better seen through its themes and messages and the problems it addresses. Yes, I think academia has sucked a lot of the thrill and wonder from art with its stuffy, pompous analyses of it... Turning it into this sublime and incomprehensible thing... Easily fetishized and rendered impersonal. I believe museum galleries could use some renovations in terms of how they are organized... I DO NOT believe that if we just made more art, that we could somehow make the world perfect. Utopia is impossible, and, not to mention, quite depressing. A perfect world does not know happiness. It is happiness, and being as it is, happiness no longer has the charm it once had. Happiness becomes suffering because it becomes mundane. In my mind. Suffering is necessary for art to be made. And I'm not talking about personal strife, but also crises involving nations and the natural world and humanity as a whole. Solve one problem and you get another... It's life, and that's what makes it beautiful, and that's what makes art. De Botton does not seem to understand this. So... "Art as Therapy"... I give it three stars. YES, art IS inherently therapeutic, and I believe that it's therapeutic value is what ought to be emphasized. NO, art IS NOT utilitarian, and cannot and will not be used as a tool to turn nations around the globe into an ideal, unified polis (this book was a lot like Plato's Republic, if Plato were for art rather than against it). That's my two cents on the matter.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    de Botton and Armstrong helped me to understand why I get so overwhelmed in art museums...it's my inability to process my emotions of what I'm seeing as fast as my body is moving. It's also the way museums are organized...by period instead of by therapeutic vision i.e. Gallery of Self-Knowledge, Love, Fear, etc. Their book is enthralling. It is a balanced mix of visual support (a nonfiction book with pictures! Hurrah!) with explanatory prose. If only I had as much time to visit an art de Botton and Armstrong helped me to understand why I get so overwhelmed in art museums...it's my inability to process my emotions of what I'm seeing as fast as my body is moving. It's also the way museums are organized...by period instead of by therapeutic vision i.e. Gallery of Self-Knowledge, Love, Fear, etc. Their book is enthralling. It is a balanced mix of visual support (a nonfiction book with pictures! Hurrah!) with explanatory prose. If only I had as much time to visit an art museum as I did to read this book. "It's a strange thought, that personal identity and qualities of mind and character can be discovered not only in people, but also in objects, landscapes, jars or boxes...Yet when we feel a kinship with an object, it is because the values we sense that it carries are clearer in it than they usually are in our minds." This book was my introduction to de Botton's writing. I'll definitely seek out more of his titles. I'm usually averse to anything philosophical, but he is able to make it very approachable to us non-theoretical types.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Norman

    I confess I love Alain de Botton's writings. THERE. Here he co-authors with John Armstrong. Knowing how I like his work I was stunned when de Botton sneaked this brilliant book up on me. I had no preconceptions before opening it but then I was blasted by thinking about art that was not only useful but also 'real' and dare I say, therapy in itself! He and John Armstrong outline the 7 functions of art before tackling questions such as "What's it for?", "what counts as good art?" and also the buyin I confess I love Alain de Botton's writings. THERE. Here he co-authors with John Armstrong. Knowing how I like his work I was stunned when de Botton sneaked this brilliant book up on me. I had no preconceptions before opening it but then I was blasted by thinking about art that was not only useful but also 'real' and dare I say, therapy in itself! He and John Armstrong outline the 7 functions of art before tackling questions such as "What's it for?", "what counts as good art?" and also the buying and selling of art. That's the 90 page introduction, then there's the topics of Love, Nature, Money and even Politics! All explanations are given around a piece of art and -although not including comics, something close to my heart - covers a wide range of art in time and type. Thank you Messrs de Botton and Armstrong. Now if you could reprint in a smaller size that would be brilliant!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tina Matin

    About this book., I should say I've learned and gained very little if anything. Of course I enjoyed revisiting some art pieces that are very dear and precious to me and not being admired as much by non artists around me. But, there was nothing new, the arguments and titles could have been much deeper both in terms of content and form. This book, for me at least, did more of organizational work rather than intellectual, meaning that it put what I new in better shelving in my mind but unfortunatel About this book., I should say I've learned and gained very little if anything. Of course I enjoyed revisiting some art pieces that are very dear and precious to me and not being admired as much by non artists around me. But, there was nothing new, the arguments and titles could have been much deeper both in terms of content and form. This book, for me at least, did more of organizational work rather than intellectual, meaning that it put what I new in better shelving in my mind but unfortunately didn't add any new volume or perspective to it. I am becoming to believe de Botton is either not very literate or takes the business of writing too lightly. Also I never see slightest hint in his work towards any other culture but western. All in all I don't think I will read him any more.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

    I may be being a little harsh by giving this book only one star. But I don’t think so. I am sure that other people love this book, clearly it gets good ratings. However I get annoyed when people imagine that they know what was in the brain of an artist while creating artwork. Unless you have read the artist’s diary about that specific painting I don’t think that you can definitively state why the artist chose the topic, style, color etc. The author also repeatedly said what people (museum curato I may be being a little harsh by giving this book only one star. But I don’t think so. I am sure that other people love this book, clearly it gets good ratings. However I get annoyed when people imagine that they know what was in the brain of an artist while creating artwork. Unless you have read the artist’s diary about that specific painting I don’t think that you can definitively state why the artist chose the topic, style, color etc. The author also repeatedly said what people (museum curators, museum visitors, and more) “should” think and feel about art they see. Sorry, I prefer to think for myself.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Roberta Bridget

    I thought this book had a strong beginning. I liked reading about why art moves people so much, as is does me. The book takes a judgemental lecturing tone however that turned me off a little when describing the business of art. The photos of the works of art were beautiful, interesting, and varied. That was worthwhile. I felt that the point at the beginning of the book, how people are moved and healed by art was the point of the whole book. I think in the end the book digressed into something el I thought this book had a strong beginning. I liked reading about why art moves people so much, as is does me. The book takes a judgemental lecturing tone however that turned me off a little when describing the business of art. The photos of the works of art were beautiful, interesting, and varied. That was worthwhile. I felt that the point at the beginning of the book, how people are moved and healed by art was the point of the whole book. I think in the end the book digressed into something else: a judgement on a society that doesn't know what to do with art (all forms, including architecture).

  28. 5 out of 5

    Art

    Ugh. Pompous, pretentious. One unsupported assertion after another. … As a result of this reading experience, I deleted another title of his from my to-read shelf: The News: A User's Manual … http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/15/boo... … http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/fisun-gu...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Barry Levene

    Although a bit pedantic and overly broad, there is a lot to admire in the approach taken to describe the purpose of art. My favorite image is the suggestion that museums should reorganize their art into galleries for emotions, like suffering, love, and fear. Authors Alain de Botton and John Armstrong state that art is "to assist mankind in its search for self-understanding, empathy, consolation, hope, self-acceptance, and fulfilment." The rest of the book tells us why.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Daniel B-G

    As with most books by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong, the book veers wildly between the facile and the profound, the naïve and the inspired. Not amongst the strongest offerings, but it was enjoyable.

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