Alain de Botton on Art as Therapy

That culture can support us in our life Which argues for the particular utility for art as a source of help with our problems our inner most problems, the problems of the soul if you like and in a way its arguing that art can be a form of self help and that there is nothing demeaning about the concept of self help I think there is nothing wrong with the art that is being produced in this country its not the art that is the problem, its the frame around the art we are simply not encouraged to bring ourselves to works of art and for that reason many a museum or a gallery visit goes off at half-cock but as we descend the white was gallery steps, their might be a sense of puzzlement


  1. Disagree w/ ur assessment of the buildings in Brasilia, that cold, boring, austere clinical looking structure is not what Brazil should aspire to, a rectification of its social, economic & political problems entrenched in its system, is. Brazil is vibrant, emotional, passionate & full of life. When did modern, scientific rationalization become the standard for everything "good" in life & what life is supposed to be, it's what's causing our descent into dehumanized, robot automatons devoid of everything it means to be human. Ditto for the cutlery – dull, lacking in style & imagination, another ridiculous outgrowth of the modern/post-modern era – dull/character-less. U can be class-less & still be interesting w/ character & style, beauty & grace. Sad state of affairs – what the viewpoint of what it means to be modern is. Most people I know & from what i hear around me are disgusted with the modern/post-modern era & the 21st century. For all the positive changes in lifestyle, there are far more sinister happenings going on w/ health/political-economic systems, etc. & the lack of human connection, individuality & expression far outweighs any conveniences, so-called freedom & ease of modern, 21st century life.

  2. Your understanding of art is fundamentally incomplete.
    The Monet's bridge and the bouquet of flowers are NOT in the same category. The simplicity of the flower bouquet should incline you to think that this painting almost by the sheer of its simplicity is about something more profound than it appears – just like Rothko's rectangles MUST be about more than what they purport to show at first. The Monet's bridge on the other hand is complex enough to simply be about the bridge. Likewise your understanding of why the art elites hate pictures like Monet's bridge show your misunderstanding of beauty. Beauty (with capital B) isn't the problem, the problem is beauty (small b) – an easy emotion that gives the viewer some feeling feeling that doesn't resonate much or lasts long. Prettiness is like a Hollywood film that wows the senses but doesn't change you in any fundamental way. This IS the reason why art elites hate "pretty."

  3. was written about and for someone who died at 102 years old. Nothing was said about generating art. There is a business where canvas, brushes and paint is supplied and people can paint simple forms sketched on the canvas or create their own forms on canvas. What does one want to see? What does one want to make? This coloring book frenzy taking over craft and book stores has an explanation and yet what purpose do people color/shade/paint these coloring books? Not everything art is in a museum.

  4. this is really cool, but how is religion on a decline, what is that suppose to mean, just look at china for example in a few years it might have the biggest christian population in the world I guess percentage of Christians is relatively less than a few centuries ago but there has never been more then now and even the same for other religions what do you mean on a decline because there is literally a church in south korea with over 800,000 members so i don't now but I would not say it is in a decline

  5. the things he said about balance remind me of how black rappers often wear the gold chains and talk about women and money and stuff like that

  6. Speaking of the boring everyday humdrum, I observed an ant running around today and realised how beautifully free he is, than most of us…

  7. "Nobody dies for culture." (Terry Eagleton)

    This talk perpetuates many fallacies. For example, the quote from Rothko perpetuates the fallacy of the resonance theory of expression, which de Botton uncritically perpetuates. Theology and psychology are falsely opposed when discussing the 'purpose' of art, as though we have to choose between the two, thus perpetuating the fallacy of the excluded middle. Art is made for many different reasons, most of which are grounded in ritual practices that transcend mere 'psychology. 'Psychology is just one of many entries into art, as is theology. Wittgenstein ridiculed psychological explanations for art. In privileging art as psychology de Botton commits what Gombrich described as the 'fallacy of the single cause'. If someone wants to understand the role of taste in relationship to how we value and engage with art, Gombrich gives a much more nuanced and systematic account than the version offered here.

    I just don't get why Alain de Botton thinks this lecture is worth giving as it is so superficial. If this is the school of life I long for death.

  8. He looks at art as therapy because the notion of art as an enlightener has been lost (and it is much harder to create). Art has also been used to create awe (ornamental art) (which contributes to security – i.e. people in awe of you will leave you alone), though it backfires when done without an adequate philosophical foundation, where it then creates envy/jealousy, which leads to hate, which leads to destruction. From the artist's standpoint, art serves as an outlet for creativity, or as a means of social interaction, or as a tool for communicating insights. So art can be a lot more than just 'therapy', though there is an aspect of art that is opiating, and some artists try to create that (if it sells), and some audiences seek that effect from art (note that art that enlightens often hits the audience over the head, and is thus not going to be popular with said audience compared to the sugary fare).

  9. It's incredible how Alain de Botton has helped me see to art in a completely new way. I find it far more interesting and engaging nowadays. For example, at school we learned about the renaissance and we studied impressionism, but it's Alain's insights into the tender relationship between art and our fragile emotional states that invigorates it all with so much more meaning and relevance.

  10. Listened to this presentation darning my socks, which is an activity I allow myself to consider as a really comforting and truly satisfying form of arts and crafts.
    I am pretty sure I get the same satisfaction as Manet had when he gave his best attention to a bunch of asparagus. Whatever, I will feel good walking with them this coming week.

  11. Description is funny…"acb argues that art can be a form of therapy". Um, doh?! This is nothing new! The creative arts are healing for the artists, the viewers, and there are many professionals who practice a profession called art therapy. No need to reinvent the wheel. He's not disclosing anything new here (?) so hyper. I like to be relaxed when listening to a lecture…this is way too fast of a speech.

  12. Listening to de Botton speak on this subject is such a genuine pleasure. Creativity is the seminal paradox of our civilization. It bridges the child and the adult, our mortality and our immortality, our past, the present and its future. It cannot be measured with tests, yet it is demeaned by the education system as an extracurricular activity. It is harnessed to industry for profit, yet it is dismissed by society as the plaything of folly. It is marginalized to the periphery, yet it is central to who we are as a species. It is denied agency by the elite few ​who​ hold their power jealously, yet it is envied and desired by all because it recalls the purity and joy of what it means to be most fully alive and human. Celebrate and embrace this stigma.

  13. Dear Journal,

    I have fought the encroachment of the display case for way too long. I found a formidable foe in the folly of a charge. I discovered the top speed of a inescapable predator in retreat. The duel is over. I have tasted my blood. My honor has been turned into paint. My brush? My struggle! I am art for all to see in all conditions compromised and fortified. Privacy and comfort are puzzle pieces of a bygone era. You have every right to watch the absurdity of myself as art without fare or invitation. I am not my own. No bucket for donations. You have little power to augment or direct my forms. Much like the Aurora Borialis I am about you without cost or effort.

  14. I think sorting books by year is not that bad. For me it shows, how the thoughts of humanity have evolved. Most writers were genuinely smart guys, who had read a lot and knew the history of literature. Therefore they didn't write already said things, but improved the ideas of writers, and the ideas of society itself. I think having books sorted by date until 19th century is great approach to know understand the history of literature.

  15. Thank you for teaching me 10 times more in 45 minutes than I've ever learned in 9 years of art class….

  16. A wonderful lecture. It's safe to say I exist because of art. My art heals me daily, gives me peace, a reason to live and a way to eloquently communicate who I am and what I value. Since I can't hold down a normal job due to my genetic disorder, I make mosaics, take nature photos, write poems, play multiple instruments and write/record songs. I've been lucky in that I've had some success in each field. The art absorbs me. I don't know how good I am, objectively speaking, at any of it. All I know is that I have to do it, for it's not so much about the end result as it is the making of it. I become hyper-focused – my thoughts and vision sharpen, the mental and physical pain is lessened. Chronic art for chronic pain.

  17. I think for once I agree with the Guardian. I have to agree with the Guardian once in awhile.

  18. The objective of the the art is to take to God. If it does not inspire us to love God it is not Art.

  19. I have been thinking about art as a form of therapy a lot lately. Just not sure what to do or where to start.

  20. The music at the beginning of these is horrifying. It is like an evangelical church with a bad fake pop band. Yikes. Gotta separate from that world.

  21. Could you next time please just show what he is talking about waaaaay longer! He says its beautiful, and you show it 3 seconds. We all allready know what Alain looks like. Thank you

  22. Gertrude Stein: We all fear death and question our place in the universe. The artist's job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.

  23. This is such a thrilling and exciting and engouraging lecture! Even cried a bit while watching it! For me as for a student of art history, this is such a meaningful and prospective on art. Thank you so much.

  24. Been a professional artist for over 50 years and a composer. I didn't know we were considered the new therapists and the new priests! LOL Thanks for sharing! Very enlightening!

  25. Mr Alain, how can you consider self help books for stupid people while your books are self help books, is that status anxiety speaking? When u consider ur readers stupid means u consider ur self stupid comparied to other writers!

  26. What about growing plants / gardening as therapy that keeps us fit & active, gives food and makes for a nice feeling to see the flowers and vegetables / herbs growing / thriving ! That feeling of abundance we get from gardening carries over in daily life

  27. Please rearrange the national gallery in Copenhagen, this sounds so wonderful. We have Købke here 🙂

  28. The impact of art over our minds, the beauty in the eye of the beholders. The death of ideas is the right notice, because we are in a world who refuses to break up with its standards. A world sees the right from one inherited ideas and never challenge to question their truthfulness. They ruined the world and create a comfortable life that kills our ideas.

  29. He had me until 42:25 – good grief, the Swiss. 700 years of peace and all they come up with is chocolate and clocks.

  30. I see…, just throw God away, who needs God? Look at the shape the world is in. In UK countless and countless lonely people in the aging population. Go to You Tube, see the numerous videos on people like this. Guess humans think they're so smart with so many answers. World becoming more Godless every day. One day, I hope, more people will see that God is foremost in everything, everything. By comparison, everything else is rubbish, including art, when God has no place in a persons life or has the time of day; no matter how erudite we think we are.

  31. A lot of what Alain says meet with (particular) theology.
    E.g. a devine tradition says "every son of Adam (human being) is an envier"
    Alain is brilliant no doubt, and he addresses true needs. Unfortunately a lot of religious people didn't get their God right. And probably clerks need to learn from him and take what doesn't conflict with their belief. E.g. in the holy book, there are both the spiritual and constitutional side. What Alain says may either be a task to be filled by the human being or something that's already in the holy book but not yet exploited. Everybody should cooperate, especially religious people.

    Translation into Arabic (because I'm addressing to them) :
    إنّ آلان شخص لامع بلا شك، و يتصدّى لحاجات حقيقية و أساسية جداً للناس. و للأسف فإنّ المتديّنين لم يعقلوا عن ربهم جيداً ولعل من هؤلاء رجال الدين حتى. و لعل الكثير من رجال الدين بحاجة أن يسمعوا كلام آلان و يتعلّموا منه ما يتوافق مع مبادئهم. في القرآن مثلاً جانب تشريعي و جانب روحي. و كلاهما بوصلة. و ما يتكلّم عنه آلان قد يكون منطقة فراغ تركها الله للإنسان كي يملأها أو أنها موجودة كذلك في القرآن (و للأسف متروكة أو غير معلنة بما يكفي). إنّ آلان يقوم بجهد مهم و ينبغي أن يقوم رجال الدين بجهد بنفس المستوى.

  32. Although I consider art an essential part of our life, as an Christian Orthodox, I don't believe art could ever replace religion. Well, I guess it might also depend on the religion. Art is made by humans and for humans. Art brings temporary relief from our pain, but only God can cure the pain for good. I experimented this myself, otherwise I wouldn't be talking about it. Art is a good tool to heighten your spirit, but having a relationship with God comes in first place.

    I respect and admire Alain de Botton nonetheless.

  33. Christian theology is a synthesis of the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle. The western religious art and music traditions celebrates this synthesis.

  34. My take:

    We are very vulnerable fragile creatures in desperate need of support.

    Use art as something that can alleviate your sorrows, bring you hope, give you courage, a living resource that’s there for our “hearts” (not as an academic or historical exercise).


    Art gives us hope. Art reminds us that we are not alone in suffering.

    Fernando Pessoa by Richard Serra (black wall) and things like that doesn’t bring you down, they bring you up by acknowledging that we’re all in this.


    Art can rebalance us.

    “What bit of you is missing that you’re finding in the object of art that you find beautiful?”

    “What are you afraid of? What is this art compensating for?”


    Art provides us with good role models.

    By looking at the statue of the Buddha you’re supposed to gain inspiration to be a bit more like him. Well-functioning society should have role models at its heart we can in a non-ironic way look up to, admire and model ourselves on. It’s very important to be able to model yourself on someone.

    Art is very good at showing us how things might one day be. We are not yet like that but we might one day be. This is an invitation for us that might edge us towards perfection.


    Art opens our eyes to the neglected value of the everyday; the value we’ve grown tired, or bored, or blinded to.


    Art gives perspective.

    We easily lose perspective and art (like pictures of mighty ocean or space) can give us the necessary perspective. This is what we need before going into many aspects of our life (every time).

    Thank you

  35. If the spirit moves you, please see this post

  36. … any of you who think this life is by accident, you better think really carefully because you will meet God one day and you will have answer for your time and actions.

  37. Surely art has already filled the void left by religion in the forms of literature and, more recently, cinema. Curation by box office performance is perhaps problematic.

  38. I felt pretty much immediately that he was simply talking too fast; I didn’t have the time to consider what he wa saying as sentence after sentence came at me in a blur. Maybe just me but I listen/watch to a lot of the TED talks on YouTube and never feel that.

  39. 11:08 while he was mentioning Syria the audiance was laughing
    And later he says beheaded children and the audiance laughs. Are they drunk?

  40. Thank you so much! This video is incredibly inspiring! This, in some way, sums up the mission of what I do, promote art ( I fonded Private Art Education on the notion that art makes us better in many aspects of life). 
    I have an altruistic proposal, would you like if I translate this video into Russian language, audio or subtitle? I just wish more people learn about this idea of Art as Therapy.

    Would you please advise me whom to contact about it, thank you!

  41. What’s so wonderful about this lecture is that in certain moments I can identify where he’s sourcing information without him mentioning the person. Of course, it goes without saying that he isn’t trying to take credit for the ideas but rather taking the valuable ideas from these philosophers and applying their ideas in an engaging delivery similar to a rabbi at a sermon. So many sources of inspiration all neatly packaged with brilliance.

  42. I am a committed Christian. I don't accept the atheist part, but I love the philosophy. Alain is a treasure.

  43. I agree: too much bad news and negative side of the everywhere. hence we need fine-art. But "fine" art. Modern art is not always "fine"! so we need artists to balance the impacts brought in by our journalists.
    In China our journalists are always reporting good news and hence we not need art for its therapeutic function.

  44. I have to say, I strongly disagree with that thing about mixing all the works of art, the works are an outlet for the ideology and culture of their time, having them arranged accordingly to time helps us understand the different views, philosophies and contrary ideas that were being generated and faced against each other, feeding from each other in a certain specific space of time, so no, we need to arrange the works of art by date, it is necessary for us to grasp a bit of the whole of the times that they were created in.
    Now about it being helpful as a therapy, yes, I agree with that, but used as an outlet for our feelings and ideas, used as a cathartic instrument for ourselves and the whole society, I am convinced art has a healing component into the act of creation and expressing what we’re feeling, thinking, wishing, wondering, aching for, hurting by, it can certainly help us heal and face life with resilience, creativity, and love.

  45. What I am wondering lately is what music preference says about someones psyche… Alains example with the image of the very clean interior was super interesting, that you like something like that because you are lacking it. Would that thought apply to music too I'm wondering. Like someone who likes heavy metal music, is that person actually very soft?

  46. @t has a FREE Art therapy course. I took it. Loved it! @t.
    FREE! Because part of minimalism to me is not to have to pay. To fill
    out forms, get money, get credit, get accepted at the school/university.
    All that is stress!

  47. I think something is missing from his critique of how museums are hung.
    The significance isn't the date, it's the context.
    Art hits hardest in the context it's communicating in. Some art casts a longer shadow than its context, in fact the best art does this, but only because it remains significant for evolving reasons, it becomes a symbol of something totally other than intended. That's great and all, but later iconoclasts often attack older art for this reason, it becomes an idol in violation of its purpose, a symbol of cultures sacred cows, not the more human purpose that motivated it. Hence the mocking LHOOQ print of the Mona Lisa with a mustache. The artist smashed the sacred cow despite loving the original because it became shallow and cosmopolitan.

    Art in context denies this shallow habit of elites. Art in context gives counterpoint to the disregarding and iconoclastic urge of the commoner to smash the out of touch false sacred gods of the cosmopolitan.

    And seeing the contexts evolve chronologically shows the evolving conversation in the context of art, writ large.

    It's still open to interpretation, it's still personal or impersonal depending on you the viewer, but at least the context is available to the apt sensitive viewer.

  48. If Art becomes a god, it becomes an Idol. Let it become a religion, for some it is already, but it will never replace the true God. All things are meant for God's glory, especially Art.

  49. don t explain a painting. You waste it. People want to heal and yet you make it about memory. When you explain it, the body gets distracted from free contemplation. It becomes something merely intellectual.

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