Alain de Botton - author of Art as Therapy

Alain de Botton's advice for Frieze goers

"Know the state of your soul before making a purchase," Art as Therapy author advises

With Thea and Ethan’s Frieze Art Fair advice to “not use the fair as the moment to buy, but as the moment to start collecting information” still ringing in our ears, today we turn for guidance to Alain de Botton, the author of Art as Therapy who, as ever, has some both useful and thought provoking advice for those planning to visit and perhaps make their first art purchase at Frieze this coming weekend.

In the section devoted to ‘How Should Art be Bought and Sold’ in his book Art as Therapy, Alain argues that while art dealers are routinely accused of practicing deception and fraud, the fault, in his mind, often lies ultimately with the potential art buyer.

“It is because so many don’t know what they are looking for that they can let themselves be swindled and led astray,” The Art as Therapy author argues.

“The task of the private gallery is a serious one: to connect purchaser with the art they need. The chief skill required for running a gallery should therefore be not salesmanship, but the ability to diagnose what is missing form the inner life of the client. The art dealer should strive to identify what kind of art a person needs to rebalance themselves and then meet that need as efficiently as possible. 


Alain's book, Art as Therapy
Alain's book, Art as Therapy

“The key activity of a dealer should be to conduct consultation sessions that would reveal the state of the client’s soul. Before one can know what someone should buy, one has to know who they are, and, more importantly, what areas of their psyches are vulnerable. 

The role of the dealer would overlap with that of a therapist,” Alain argues in Art as Therapy. “The standard layout of a commercial gallery would evolve to include a therapy room, which one might need to pass through before getting to see any works for sale. Thus the dealer would operate as a matchmaker, bringing together an inner need of the client with a work best able to assuage it.”

Is Alain right? Will the more adventurous galleries at Frieze this weekend be offering a lie down on a PK24 Chaise Longue (as featured in The Design Book) and a bit of soul mining along with the Champers and special discount? We'd love to see it. It’s a really interesting idea and one any aspiring gallerist new to the game might consider in one form or another. You can browse more compelling arguments online from Art as Therapy or just head straight in and get them all in Alain's book. If you do, we guarantee you’ll be among the most truly art educated people at Frieze this weekend.