Debate: Museums are bad at telling us why art matters

Intelligence Squared debate at the Saatchi Gallery. 21st June 2011. Museums are bad at telling us why art matters.
Video Rating: 4 / 5


  1. In my opinion, art museums are very good at insisting that art does matter,
    but not good at all at telling us why it matters or why it should matter or
    why it might once have mattered. Inherently, by pulling a work out of its
    original cultural context, framing it or putting it in a glass box,
    lighting it, and labeling it with an artist’s name, date, and such
    irrelevant constructionist details as “oil on canvas”, it deliberately
    restricts the very contextual clues that would provide our intuition with a
    specific sense of meaning, and instead substitutes a generic pedestal or
    frame proclaiming that there must be a generic importance here somewhere,
    if only you are clever enough to contemplate it in the right frame of mind.
    In some cases the art is good enough to evoke the right frame of mind in
    the contemplative viewer, in other cases you’re better off contemplating
    shoe boxes in a shoe store.

    My real indictment of museums of modern art isn’t that they fail to tell is
    why modern art matters, my indictment is that they choose to exhibit
    objects that clearly do not matter. If you put crap on a pedestal, you
    don’t get crap that matters, you just get a crappy pedestal.

  2. Why is this, once again, a panel of 7 guys…are there no women’s voices to
    be heard?

  3. I was wondering the same thing. I especially love how he assumed that what
    we were ‘feeling’ about the shoebox was positive in any way. How
    pretentious to assume what his audience is feeling.

  4. No, he doesn’t, he talks pretty much exclusively about contemporary art

  5. Does gender matter? We’re listening to individual people, not their sex.

  6. More bullshit crap from this BULLSHITTING panellist Alan Botton any artist
    or group what explain their work is to being a Hitler or a Stalin and we
    must all say “ART IS FOR ART SAKE” Therefore a Leonardo da vinci drawings
    and a piece of work for art for art sake from the Saatchi gallery crap is
    the same.

  7. hello, we have nothing better to do so we thought we’d gather around in
    pomp and posh settings and explain the meaning of the color blue and let
    you know at the end weve really just spewed authentic British gibberish for
    the last hour and a half.

  8. Intellectual gibberish. That guy is a fraud.

  9. Matthew Taylor is so incredibly charasmatic during his closing debate I
    could of sworn I heard the rallying music from the “Return of the king”
    movie slowly rising up as he spoke… Listen to his (very compelling)
    speech starting at 42:28

  10. Alan Botton your two face religious pulpit sermon is becoming annoying.
    Saying “ The salvation of Art and the Museums is Religion” And we all must
    ”Try and be bit more like Jesus” I have to switch you off here after 6 mins.

  11. Alan Botton saying modernist response to the public question for what their
    art work is for would be illegitimate and vulgar to them is just ignorance.
    The impressionist to the surrealist has manifestoes. And when he states
    once the public looks at the work there’s puzzlement he or she can then
    just look at the plank next to the work for its explanation.

  12. Fantastic Debate and very thought provoking exchange of ideas !!! Please
    post more of similar videos!! Thank you, I for one, Enjoyed it very much.

  13. I absolutely love Ben in this, as well as the others on his side of the
    panel. I find that they have a clarity with their speech that the other
    pro-museum panelists lack.

  14. Ben Lewis is brilliant, starts at 23:33

  15. Ben . just fantastic

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