Guide to art as therapy – Alain de Botton

Can visual art offer solace, hope and reassurance as music can? The writer chooses the works that make him feel less alone.

It comes naturally to most of us to think of music as therapeutic. Almost all of us are, without training, DJs of our own souls, deft at selecting pieces of music that will enhance or alter our current moods for the better. Yet few of us would think of turning to the visual arts for this kind of help. Few of us involve paintings or sculptures in our emotional lives. We don’t have playlists of favourite images on our phones. We don’t assemble our own private galleries on our computers. The cost and prestige of art typically draws us back from such steps. The way the establishment presents art to us doesn’t invite us to bring ourselves into contact with works.

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