Blogging the Bookshelf

Blogging my bookshelf – one book at a time

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Art and Scarcity of Attention – “Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist” – Tyler Cowen

August 2nd, 2011 · No Comments · Art, Culture, Economics

Our time and attention is scarce. Art is not that important to us, no matter what we might like to believe… Our love of art is often quite temporary, dependent upon our moods, and our love of art is subservient to our demand for a positive self image. How we look at art should account for those imperfections and work around them. “

Keep in mind that books, like art museums, are not always geared to the desires of the reader. Maybe we think we are supposed to like tough books, but are we? Who says? Many writers (and art museums) produce for quite a small subsample of the… public.
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In each room, ask yourself which picture you would take home – if you could take just one – and why? This forces you to keep thinking critically about the displays. If the alarm system was shut down and the guards went away, should I carry home the Cezanne, the Manet, or the Renois? In a room of Egyptian antiquities, which one caught my eye? And why? We should discuss the question with our companion.

To put it crudely, we must force ourselves to keep on paying attention. Ranking the pictures focuses our attention on our favourites. It also focuses our attention on ourselves, which is in fact our favourite topic….

At the end of the visit, ask which paintings stuck with you. Did you find yourself thinking back on the Munch, the Pollock, or the medieval tapestries? A week later ask the same question. Then go read about those artists or that period. That is a more useful procedure than reading about art in advance.

We should view paintings repeatedly, but especially after we have spent time with other artworks. The best way to understand one art museum is to go see another art museum with a related but not identical collection.

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