Why Do We Think That People who are Visually Impaired Don’t Want to Know About the Visual Arts?

Simon Hayhoe

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

65 Downloads (Pure)


In this presentation I (very briefly) discuss the findings from my 2017 book,
Blind Visitor Experiences at Art Museums. In doing so, I address the question
in the title of this presentation through the experiences of visitors with visual
impairment at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and philosophies
of exclusion. Through this process, I argue that there is an extra dimension to
understanding the visual arts. This dimension can act as a bridge between the
awareness of artworks through perception and an understanding of their
contents beyond perceptual knowledge. This bridge between awareness and
nonverbal knowledge is described as an ambience that is provided by the
environment and context of knowing artworks. This ambience is felt in
museums, galleries, and monuments and is made possible by the visitor’s
proximity to artworks.
In this presentation, I also argue that ambience is still there when individual
perceptions of artworks are lessened or removed altogether by the impairment
of museum visitors.
In the process of examining blindness in the museum, this presentation also
questions the work of two traditional viewpoints on knowledge about visual
art in the museum. The first viewpoint is given by the art historian Ernst
Gombrich, who wrote on an educational understanding of art and the role of
the museum. The second viewpoint is given by the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu,
who wrote on the role of art in the museum as a symbol of cultural distinction
and artistic tastes.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 2020
EventNormal Now!: Art and Dis/ability in a Digital World - Stokholm University, Stokholm, Sweden
Duration: 29 Oct 202029 Oct 2020


ConferenceNormal Now!
Abbreviated titleNormal Now!
Internet address


  • visual impairment
  • blindness
  • art
  • arts
  • paintings
  • dance
  • museums
  • galleries
  • Inclusion


Dive into the research topics of 'Why Do We Think That People who are Visually Impaired Don’t Want to Know About the Visual Arts?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this