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The Rise of the Mindful Museum


At The Baffler website, Michael Friedrich examines the trend of “mindfulness” programs offered by prominent museums across the US, from New York MoMA’s “Quiet Mornings” to the weekly “Mindful Awareness Meditation” at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Designed to incorporate the contemplation of art into mindfulness practices, Friedrich finds that these programs are too often extensions of the highly profitable mindfulness industry, which seems more interested in making us productive workers than anything else. Here’s an excerpt:

Always a site of contemplation, the art museum has lately seized on this wellness trend, explicitly branding itself a respite from our frenzied, mediated lives. It has become a kind of temple, a cultural arm of the corporate workplace that mandates meditation to improve employees’ coping skills. Together, they capitalize on the benign glow of an enlightened lifestyle. Participants leave dosed with loving-kindness and nonjudgmental attentiveness. Only the mindless would repudiate these gifts! So we worship, but we also feel uneasy. The museum’s culture of promotion grinds against our collective peace of mind.

Image via the Hammer Museum.