Michael NewallJan 13, 2022
A Philosophy of the Art School
If one were to devise a motto for the art school of today, the choice between 'you too are an artist' and 'abandon all hope you who enter here' would be difficult. Despite significant changes in mainstream art education in recent decades, many anglophone art schools have not abandoned the principal tools of the masterclass or the crit that stem from some stubborn 18th-century ideas and the belief that creativity is the preserve of the artistic genius. Considering these histories can shed light on the role of the art school in the 21st century.
Research on art schools has been largely occupied with the facts of particular schools and teachers. Michael Newall's A Philosophy of the Art School (Routledge, 2021) presents a philosophical account of the underlying practices and ideas that have come to shape contemporary art school teaching in the UK, US and Europe. It analyses two models that, hidden beneath the diversity of contemporary artist training, have come to dominate art schools. The book draws on first-hand accounts of art school teaching and is deeply informed by disciplines ranging from art history and art theory to the philosophy of art, education and creativity.
Michael Newall speaks to Pierre d'Alancaisez about the masterclass and the crit, the pervasive idea of the Romantic genius, creative disagreements with Kant, and the lessons for the future that a historical perspective may offer.
Michael Newall is a programme leader in art and philosophy at the University of Kent.