Art Gallery of Ontario debuts acclaimed philosopher Alain de Botton’s Art as Therapy exhibition series

From May 3, 2014 to March 1, 2015, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) presents an innovative exhibition entitled Art as Therapy, co-curated by renowned British philosopher Alain de Botton and art historian John Armstrong. Exploring the therapeutic potential of artworks, the exhibition marks the project’s North American debut.

Presented as a series of interventions, and featuring works from the AGO collection, the exhibition brings to life the ideas set forth in de Botton’s and Armstrong’s recently published book, Art as Therapy.

Engaging, lively and controversial, de Botton’s and Armstrong’s book is packed with 150 examples of outstanding art, architecture and design, while chapters on love, nature, money and politics show how art can help with many common difficulties—from forging good relationships and finding happiness to accepting mortality. Seeking to help readers develop a deeper understanding of art and of themselves in equal measure, the book provides fascinating reading for those familiar with art as well as those new to the subject.

In an installation that brings the ideas of the book to life, de Botton and Armstrong will select key works from the AGO collection to illustrate their theory in seven areas throughout the Gallery. Accompanying these works will be interactive strategies designed to connect visitors to the art on a personal level.

“Art as Therapy underlines one of the AGO’s key goals: to bring people closer to art,” said Matthew Teitelbaum, director and CEO of the AGO. “We couldn’t be more pleased to be the first institution on the continent to debut the project. Alain’s and John’s research is extraordinarily thought-provoking, and we are excited to play a part in igniting this important conversation.”

The AGO is the first North American institution to present the exhibition, which will be uniquely tailored to the Gallery’s collection. It will also be presented at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. The AGO exhibition will be accompanied by a series of public talks and book signings.

To coincide with the launch of the book, a new website and mobile app is available at Produced by The School of Life, the site is organized according to categories, including Love, Work, Politics, Anxiety and Free Time. Within each category, the authors use works of fine art — paintings, photographs, even architecture—to demonstrate how a piece of art can solve a specific problem.

Alain de Botton is the bestselling author of How Proust Can Change Your Life and Religion for Atheists, among other works of fiction and essays. In 2008 he founded The School For Life, dedicated to a new vision of education. He lives and works in London, UK.

John Armstrong is a philosopher and art historian based at Melbourne University in Australia. He is the author of many books, including The Intimate Philosophy of Art, Conditions of Love: the Philosophy of Intimacy and In Search of Civilization: Remaking a Tarnished Idea.

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