Suggest books that will change your life

The picture is clear: you see a work of art and - zack! - everything is clear in front of you. Everything that has been overlooked so far, everything that has been done wrong - passé. Instead, you know exactly what to do to be happy.

That's the theory. Alain de Botton and John Armstrong present the life-changing effects of art in their opinion differently. They attribute the potential to it to sharpen our eyes, to find inner balance and and and. They try to prove that in a total of five chapters. Well, let's go on an adventure and let art change our lives for once. The approach always sounds exciting!

The authors don't bake small rolls. Under the heading of “Methodology”, questions are asked about the meaning of art, what counts as good art and of course: “How should we deal with art?” The answer to the last question is art history (consciously? ): "Scholars should rather ask themselves what kind of relationship there is between the spirit of the work of art they admire and the psychological weaknesses of their audience." This is where the reader's stomach ache begins. "Scholars" - aren't these people who are popularly disparaged as unworldly by a populist public? And why should art scholars and educators ask about the psychological constitution of their readers and visitors? That would be a serious encroachment on the privacy of the picture viewer! Alternatively, they have to anticipate their possible deficits - and then face an audience that they exactly did not expect. No, that cannot be the task of the "scholars". Your task is and remains the scientifically founded occupation with the work. You are not a therapist. Accordingly, the authors propose not to classify art in museums according to historical questions, but according to which mental crises they deal with. That too - questionable.

Well, there are four other chapters: "Love," Nature, "Money" and "Politics". But in the next chapter, too, the reader can expect a stomach ache when de Botton and Armstrong ask whether people can get better in love. As an introduction, draw a scenario of unfulfilled expectations, desire, and disregard instead of familiarity and fulfillment. The authors therefore assume a deficit per se that needs to be remedied - the ideal case of "happy and fulfilled love" is made the exception. Fortunately, they don't make it that easy for themselves. Rather, art allows, for example, to sharpen one's eye for detail, stimulates curiosity or to take a different perspective. They are not wrong here, but that is nothing new either.

Perhaps, however, dealing with nature will bring illuminating things. Here, too, observing what is depicted is the determining factor. However, the authors also dedicate themselves to the fascination of Northern and Central European artists for "the South", its light and colors, but also for the relaxed atmosphere that was enjoyed there in modern times on educational trips to Italy - so it is no wonder that Mediterranean- Architectures have been and will be adapted. But the authors also assign a meaning to contemporary art for our view of nature, especially for the landscapes that have been changed by technology and economy - Bernd and Hilla Becher or Andreas Gursky serve as prime examples here.

In the next chapter on the subject of money, too, the authors are self-confident again: The book wants to point out the decisive clues that art has to offer for a reform of capitalism. The authors paint a picture of a purely opposing way of thinking: radical rejection of the monetary system and capitalism against the glorification of the economic system. Both of these are of course of little use; what is needed is a more honest relationship with money. But what is this? Quite simply: Tasteless casino architectures, trash TV and Co. are a product of ourselves and as soon as we are no longer willing to spend our money on it, it would be blown away. Our taste is to blame! This is where the art critic should start and, with his consistent education in good taste, also offer instructions for our economy. After all, taste and profit orientation should go hand in hand - as an example, the company Morris & Co., whose business model was to continue to create artisanal products in times of mass production. Oh, and art is also good for career counseling!

Last but not least, the political dimension of art should of course also be tapped. We are thinking here of history painting and portraits of rulers, representative buildings and critical works. Here, too, de Botton and Armstrong confidently write about their own thoughts: »Art can be abused politically just as much as almost anything else, and yet it has earned it simply because of its potential for good, recognized it on a theoretical level and examined it on a practical level to become. «A nice commonplace! Artists should also be allowed to "cure states" if they have the ability to help individuals. As evidence of this potential, then - absolutely understandable - works that primarily focus on the weak in society, such as by Tino Seghal or Sebastián Errázuriz. But also message architectures as symbols for the national self-image and design objects with the same role are the topic of the chapter. That too - little new. What is exciting here, however, is the approach to censorship of the two: this, used aesthetically instead of content, can also be positive - an example is a facade-high perfume advertisement at the Musée d’Orsay, which perhaps actually seemed out of place for many viewers. The tenor of this consideration: "good" censorship is possible.

What an entertaining stroll through art and its soul-caressing potential could be unfortunately does not keep what it promises. Large parts of the book read for what they are: a product of the age of self-optimization at all costs, and art is only a means to an end for the two authors. Their beauty or ugliness, their content orientation - only the question of their usefulness seems to determine their justification. The joy of beauty is only an aid to optimization. Alain de Botton and John Armstrong completely lack the joy of the useless, which can also be an aspect of art. And that's what makes the book a disappointment: basically, the authors are putting art at the service of a world of work that demands perfection and functionality from its subjects. That is not the essence of art, it cannot and should not work that way, no matter how many general points you can string together and look for as many topics for which you can make use of the beautiful, if you only look at it through the right glasses .