Jake & Dinos Chapman, “The Milk of Human Weakness II” (2011) (image via happyfamousartists/Flickr)

The next time you visit an art gallery, Jake Chapman thinks you’d be better off leaving the children at home. The British artist, who works closely with his brother Dinos and is himself the father of three, said that bringing kids to view art is a “total waste of time,” the Independent reported. Furthermore, he labelled parents who think their children could comprehend the works of artists such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko as “arrogant.” Placing a child in front of a painting like a Pollock, he thinks, is “like saying…it’s as moronic as a child? Children are not human yet.”

Unsurprisingly, his remarks have incensed many, including Guardian writer Dia Birkett, who accused Chapman of snobbery and argued for the importance of introducing art to a child from a young age. Research supports her claim, too, demonstrating the educational value of taking students to museums on field trips as it “exposes students to a diversity of ideas that challenge them with different perspectives on the human condition.”

The brothers are no strangers to controversy — they are known for their explicit works, many of which include sexually explicit, mutated sculptures of children. BBC’s arts editor Will Gompertz, in fact, notes that the pair has a knack for manipulating the media to draw attention to their work, writing that Jake Chapman’s recent string of comments “is a beautifully crafted example of the art,” having outraged enough people to likely boost ticket sales. The Chapmans are currently crowdsourcing funds for a major upcoming exhibition, which they are promoting as “their biggest, baddest show yet.” They have not yet reached their goal.

In conclusion: bring children on visits to art galleries, just make sure they don’t try to take a nap on the sculptures.

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...

16 replies on “Showing Your Kids Art a “Total Waste of Time,” Artist Says”

  1. How would one of the Chapman brothers know? Neither of them has made a single piece of art in their entire careers.

  2. “The Chapmans are currently crowdsourcing funds for a major upcoming exhibition”

    Oh? They can’t get a collector, gallery, or museum to foot the bill for it? No surprise. Vapid YBAS art on the way down. Maybe they can join Tracy Emin, start doing the vapid phrases in neon tubing everyone seems to do these days and build their own museum to themselves to feed their own egos.

  3. “Children are not human yet.” Sheesh, that’s a depressing (and arrogant) opinion to carry through life.

  4. I’ve always thought Chapman work to be a moronic waste of time. So maybe that’s where he’s coming from.

  5. He’s right. Little kids don’t give a damn about art unless its of the kind of entertaining narrative that appeals to children.

  6. what does the fact that i liked pollock as a child say about adults who like him?
    what a con

  7. His comments have some merit. I can’t stand the parents who use galleries as glorified playgrounds to babysit their hyperactive kids, ruining the experience for the rest of us. And you never see these parents actually discussing the work with their kids. The poor kids are just left to absorb the complex themes and potential insights by osmosis while the parents tuck into corners and stare blankly into their phones. One missed learning opportunity after another. Such a waste.

  8. Hey hey hey, only as a child you can comprehend it as it written in history books, when you grow you you totally understand value of formal composition and mutated monetary “value” paid for artwork utilizing simple compositional principles. Money paid because of PR and politics. If you dumb you going to believe it (Pollock, Rothko) has something supernatural in it; if you normal adult you’ll see just fields of color and bunches of lines. Nothing more than saturated images of sunset or forests at early spring. NOTHING MORE. Don’t make religion out of art, art is not religion, and artists, best of them are atheists.

  9. I think we should just go ahead and shield all uncultured people from things they potentially might not understand. I always save myself from viewing any art until I’ve had a thorough year of art history training and an extensive background of any historical or social context that might have influenced it. I try to write a master’s thesis on the subject whenever possible. It seems like the fine art world is getting a little too intellectual for it’s own good. It’s not hard to understand a Bosch painting despite its being wrought with symbols and social context, yet some claim you need to read a dissertation just to understand a 8′ x 12′ painting of an enormous orange rectangle on a red background.

    As for the criticism of parents letting their kids use the gallery as a playground. This isn’t particularly related to art, as I have encountered this phenomenon practically anywhere. Try going to a midnight showing at the movies only to listen to the near-continuous screaming of a rather unhappy infant and you’ll see what I mean.

  10. I’m surprised people are jumping on Jake Chapman as much as they are. Calling his artwork dumb or bad is an ad Hominem attack which addresses nothing of his position.

    Children (and their brains) are not fully formed. It’s for this reason that we don’t give kids equal rights of adults. A child may enjoy a piece of artwork, but they are unlikely to understand the nuances of theory, material, narrative qualities, etc… It could be like throwing epistemology at five year-olds expecting them to comprehend the material.

    Keep in mind the above is predicated on whether art is better enjoyed for its formal qualities, or its more theoretical / historical attributes. Chapman seems to give the later a higher value, but if your artistic tastes skews to pure formalism, then a child’s view on art is perfectly valid.

    I personally was bored of art museums as a kid. I drew every day and always wanted to be in the arts, but galleries and institutions were tiring. It was as I entered adulthood that these things meant something deeper to me.

  11. When does this magical humanity thing happen, if children aren’t there yet? When did it happen to them? Just asking.

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