What Art Galleries Can Learn from Playgrounds

Writer Tom Whyman and his two-year-old son visit artist Albert Potrony’s ‘non-hierarchical’ crèche at the BALTIC gallery.

I don’t think I fully appreciated this until I had kids. But what you need to know about art galleries is, that they are playgrounds. People think of ‘an art gallery’, and they think of some staid white cube where people go to stroke their chins or start tentative romances while feeling some very profound feelings and thinking some very profound thoughts. But actually, in my experience – especially my more recent experience – art galleries are big, fun, ecstatic spaces where Material is shown in its most alive, most basic, most joyous form: as Stuff you can use to Create. And they’re full of families of screaming children, running around like maniacs. Or at least this is how it seems to me, whose horizon of experience, at the weekends, is typically dominated by a single, wonderful maniac: my two year-old son.

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