Book review | Art as Therapy

art as therapy 2

“The saying ‘art for art’s sake’ specifically rejects the idea that art might be for the sake of anything in particular, and therefore leaves the high status of art mysterious – and vulnerable. Despite the esteem art enjoys, its importance is too often assumed rather than explained. Its value is taken to be a manner of common sense. This is highly regrettable, as much for the viewers of art as for its guardians” (extract from Art as Therapy)

What book are we talking about?

Alain de Botton and John Armstrong’s new book: Art as Therapy. The book has been published alongside a special exhibition at the Rjiksmuseum, but also works as a stand-alone read. The title is a pretty good indication of what the book is about. The concept behind the book is that looking and experiencing art can help us in understanding and solving our daily dilemmas.

What’s it like?

Art as therapy reads as a mix of an opinion piece in a newspaper, an interesting conversation and an academic research. The inclusion of a ‘methodology’ chapter reminds of an academic research, and the logical structure of the writing shows that the book is indeed well thought out. However, the writing style is casual and the many examples and visual aids make it an entertaining read. Actually, the inclusion of the methodology chapter makes the book more accessible than it would otherwise be, because it does a good job at introducing a new way of looking at art.

Is it worth the read?

Apart from introducing their own theories, de Botton and Armstrong provide a background of how art can be analysed without being snobs. I enjoy the subtle humour found in a lot of de Botton’s work and the subject matter of this book is also a winner for me. For art lovers of museum goers I say this book is worth the read.

*for those techies with a smartphone*

Alain de Botton has also released a free Art as Therapy app where you can look up the artisic cures for whatever is ailing you. Not terribly elaborate, but cute and more than a gimmick.

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