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Sex, Drugs and Museums

Image from the 'Amsterdam, The Magic Center' exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum

Let’s step away from fancy terms like ‘educational attainment’ for a moment and talk about real motivation for going to the museum.

While the Park Avenue, Neuilly, Kensington and Beverly Hills crowd might still have a grip on the commercial art world, the museum experience has evolved from one reserved for the wealthy to one that appeals to a broader audience. It’s gone from paying your entry for a stuffy experience to a far more accessible and younger vibe you won’t find elsewhere: take in a temporary exhibition, eat at the restaurant that rivals any other in town, walk the galleries, gardens and rooftops, and even do a little shopping with a parent, buddy or date.

And to cater to this broad set of interested audiences, museums offer student, senior and family discounts, free entry to permanent collections for job-seekers and special access on the first whatever-day of the month, among other initiatives.

So when it comes to what really motivates us to go to the museum, I don’t think we wake up in the morning with a burning desire for ‘educational attainment’. Like many questions about culture, asking someone what brings them to museums is often met with a guarded and safe answer, one that falls within generally accepted perceptions of these institutions.

But there is social value in going to the museum and that’s a big driver for visitors. In fact, “socializing with friends and family members is the most common motivation for arts attendance”. So for all of us who are neither art historians or chasing a social agenda, what about liking museums for simpler reasons, and much more enjoyable ones.

To borrow from Ian Drury and the Blockheads, what about for the sex, drugs and [art]?

Let’s start with creativity, which happens to be my drug of choice. Whether you’re a hedge fund exec or a postman, we all bring some degree of creativity to our personal and professional lives. We enjoy feeding that creativity which is why we turn to fashion, food, music, art and entrepreneurship in the first place. Museums are neutral settings that give us a chance to stumble upon colors, shapes, objects and ideas that inspire us.

And if I told single Millennials in Paris, London or Los Angeles that their chance of sleeping with a date doubles with a stroll through a temporary exhibition followed by dinner at the museum’s restaurant, it would seem obvious to the art-lovers among us (pun intended 😉) while the rest would get right to looking for a listing of temporary shows nearby.

But until I can back all this up with hard data (survey question: did the last time you took a date to the museum lead to a night of passionate love-making?), let’s see what people think of the new app Muzing.

So in the words of Ian Drury and the Blockheads, sex, drugs and museums “is all my brain and body need”. And if the exhibitions are as good as we expect them to be we might even come away with something meaningful and far more lasting than a one-night stand…short of marriage of course.

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