I’ll confess – I’m an Alain de Botton groupie.
The British author and thinker has pioneered what might be the most sophisticated form of “self-help” available today. In a series of fascinating, bestselling books – “The Consolations of Philosophy,” “How Proust Can Change Your Life,” “Status Anxiety,” “The Art Of Travel,” and “Religion for Atheists” – de Botton mines great works from our cultural heritage for ideas on how we might live better lives.
In his latest book, “Art as Therapy,” co-authored with John Armstrong, de Botton notes that while everyone knows art is important, we often come away from a museum feeling baffled, underwhelmed or even inadequate in the face of our apparent failure to grasp what all the fuss is about. What if our often unsatisfying relationship to art isn’t our fault, he asks, but the problem instead is the way art is taught, sold and presented by the art establishment? And what if a fresh way of thinking about art’s purpose and use can actually help us lead more fulfilling lives? His answers – as well as his assertion that the gift shop is the most important part of a museum – will intrigue and inspire you.
I had dinner with Alain a few years ago in London and was struck immediately by his remarkable intellectual range. For my money, he’s one of the West’s most interesting minds. Give him a listen and see if you don’t agree. (And if you do, check out The School of Life, which de Botton helped launch to institutionalize attention to ideas on living well that he says universities, museums and other modern secular authorities are too timid or confused to offer.)
Art as Therapy Website: http://100087-adb-art-as-therapy-app.twotwentyseven.com/
Alain de Botton