Should children go to art galleries?

Yesterday, I came across this article on the BBC News website about one of the Chapman brother’s thoughts about children visiting art galleries. He doesn’t think they should.

At first I thought his objection was based on the ‘adult’ nature of his artwork (and some other artworks) but in fact, that is not the issue he is concerned with. Instead, his argument is based on the fact that a child can relate to the apparent ‘simplicity’ of a Matisse or a Picasso, works of art which he rightly states are far from simple. I think he is missing the point here.

Ban those children from that art gallery! Mr Chapman with his children.

Ban those children from that art gallery! Mr Chapman with his children in an art gallery.

I take my children to art galleries. Chapman states that he thinks that parents are ‘arrogant’ for thinking their children can fully understand abstract art. He is assuming that parents are equating such works to child art. I doubt that is the case. I don’t show my children Cubist paintings or Rothko pieces because I feel they can ‘relate’ to the style which they could perhaps, given their age and skill level, emulate in their own artwork. I show them Cubist paintings because I hope that they can get something, even something small, out of the experience. I also show them Renaissance paintings, Impressionist paintings, installations, video art, animation art and sculpture. In fact I don’t censor what I show them, except perhaps anything I fear might shock them.

'In honour of red things' at the Just Do It exhibition

‘In honour of red things’ at the Just Do It exhibition

My children might only last for half an hour in an art gallery and might only be able to look at one or two rooms before they become desensitised and bored. I take them because I know that they get something out of seeing art, especially my middle son who is quite creative. I don’t think he gets the same out of looking at art as I do, as an adult. I don’t presume that he has the emotional intelligence to process as much as I can. Even if he only gets something small out of his visit, it is above zero so that must be a positive. I think that seeing art encourages his creative urges and fosters in him, and other children, a curiosity about the world in general and art in particular. Children are the artists of the future after all.

Could my four year old do this?

Could my four year old do this?

Mr Chapman, you are wrong! Some have speculated that he has been expounding these opinions (during the school holidays) as a publicity stunt, to provoke and to paradoxically cause a rise in visits to art galleries by parents and children. Perhaps this is so. If so, that would be a great result.

I’ll let Anthony Gormley have the last word: ‘I don’t think art is to be understood – it’s to be experienced.’


Measure, S., 5 August 2014, ‘A gallery visit? Leave those children at home says top artist’, The Independent. Available from [last accessed 5 August 2014]

BBC News, 4 August 2014,  ‘Jack Chapman: taking children to galleries is a ‘waste of time’. Available from [last accessed 5 August 2014]

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