This week’s Tate Debate is a guest question from the Great British Art Debate: Should art be good for you? Here’s what John Martin curator Martin Myrone had to say:
We regularly fall back on the idea of art-as-therapy - the expectation that going to a gallery, seeing some pictures, participating in ‘culture’, is a good thing to do - morally good, almost therapeutically good. I don’t get this, never have – it’s not that there isn’t pleasure to be had in going to see an exhibition or visit a gallery, far from it, there’s plenty to enjoy. But the assumption that the experience is good for you, even health-giving, I think is wrong – even dangerous. It distracts us from what was really going on behind so many of the pictures which hang in our national galleries. In the context of British art, it takes us away from the much more challenging, intersting, exciting stories about British culture and history – the questions that really, really, matter…
And here’s what one of our GBAD fans, Bruce, had to say on the facebook discussion page:
Art can be good for you in health terms. Large scale, long-term studies in Sweden and America have shown statistically significant correlations between attending art galleries and health in older people, using indicators such as cancer mortality rates. (The work is published.) But there is a difference between saying art ‘can’ be good for you and art ‘should’ be good for you. That said, I sometimes think that the artistic community makes too much of the significance of art and the role of the artist in society. Encounters between an artwork and the viewer are necessarily individual. Art shouldn’t ‘have’ to be anything; artworks are out there and we experience them as we will.
What do you think?