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Sex, Drugs and Museums

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

Let me just preface the following with the bad news: this sadly is not about some sex or drug craze happening in museums. It sure would spice things up a bit but we’ll leave all that to the artists.

This is about stepping away from fancy terms like ‘educational attainment’ when talking about why we go to museums to consider the real motivation for a visit.

While the Park Avenue, Neuilly, Kensington and Beverly Hills crowd might still have a grip on the commercial art world (suckers), the museum experience has evolved from one reserved for these privileged few to one that now appeals to broader audiences. It’s gone from paying your entry to a stuffy experience to a far younger and more accessible 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 family, friends or a love interest.

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

But 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 what brings someone to the museum is often met with a guarded and safe answer, one that falls within generally accepted perceptions of these institutions.

So let’s brush these perceptions aside and recognize that a big driver for visitors is simply the social value. In fact, for all of us who aren’t art historians, “socializing with friends and family members is the most common motivation for arts attendance”.

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 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 get our creative juices flowing.

As for the sex (I use this term provocatively), what better time to lean in for a first kiss than under Gustave Courbet’s ‘The Origin of the World’?! If I told single Millennials in Paris, London or Los Angeles that their chances of establishing a meaningful connection with a date improves significantly with a stroll through a temporary exhibition followed by dinner at the museum’s restaurant, it might seem obvious to the art-lovers among us (pun intended ?) but 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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