Nick Wilson

"Artful Living"


Hello and welcome.

From an early age I loved doing music. I played and sung my way to university, music colleges in London and Berlin, and then the life of a freelance singer. I gave up singing professionally in the late 1990s, but this didn't stop me 'finding my voice' in other areas. I worked in arts management & concert promotion, small business research, and teaching in a business school. For the last decade my professional home has been in the Arts and Humanities faculty of King's College London, where I'm Professor of Culture & Creativity and (from June 2020) Head of Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries. Over the years, I've made lots of discoveries. Recently, I've come to realise that my work is unified in its underlying focus on what I call 'aesthetic reason' and 'artful living' (watch my Inaugural Lecture).

I believe that 'art' is much more than 'the arts'. Art matters because it is the distinctive human practice where we give sharable form to our experiences of being-in-relation with the natural necessity of the world - quite simply, the way the world is. The arts matter not just because they can be entertaining, thought-provoking, uplifting, challenging, comforting, a source of employment, and major contribution to national productivity (GDP), (they are all this, and much more besides), but because they are where society gives permission to value aesthetic knowing. It is this kind of knowing that helps us come to know what is it like to be human. This is an ultimate concern we all have. It is a need - albeit one that often goes unrecognised. 'Seeing', 'hearing', and then fulfiling this need through art is then an act of care that is central to human flourishing.

My teaching, research and leadership in the areas of culture, media and creative industries is positioned against my on-going quest for 'artful living'. For me, culture is best understood in terms of our systems of value recognition. Understanding and critically interrogating these systems (the market, politics, education, science, healthcare, and - yes, the arts) is one of the most important tasks we can possibly embark on.

I regularly upload writings and links to publications, as well as information about my current research interests and projects. More details of my work at the Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries, King's College London is available on the CMCI website.

Please do get in touch if you would like to collaborate!

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Credit: David Tett

Recent News

My most recent book is The Space that Separates: A Realist Theory of Art (available to order as hardback or ebook from Routledge, Amazon and other on- and off-line bookstores). The official blurb is below - but suffice it to say, this is a book that seeks to get at what art is (from a critical realist perspective) and which is motivated by the belief that we can, and should, open ourselves to living 'artfully'. This is all the more important as the reality of the climate emergency confronting everyone of us becomes daily more evident.

"The Space that Separates: A Realist Theory of Art radically challenges our assumptions about what art is, what art does, who is doing it, and why it matters. Rejecting the modernist and market-driven misconception that art is only what artists do, Wilson instead presents a realist case for living artfully. Art is defined as the skilled practice of giving shareable form to our experiences of being-in-relation with the real; that is to say, the causally generative domain of the world that extends beyond our direct observation, comprising relations, structures, mechanisms, possibilities, powers, processes, systems, forces, values, ways of being. In communicating such aesthetic experience we behold life’s betweenness – "the space that separates", so coming to know ourselves as connected."

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Providing the first dedicated and comprehensive account of art and aesthetics from a critical realist perspective – Aesthetic Critical Realism (ACR), Wilson argues for a profound paradigm shift in how we understand and care for culture in terms of our system(s) of value recognition. Fortunately, we have just the right tool to help us achieve this transformation – and it’s called art. Offering novel explanatory accounts of art, aesthetic experience, value, play, culture, creativity, artistic truth and beauty, this book will appeal to a wide audience of students and scholars of art, aesthetics, human development, philosophy and critical realism, as well as cultural practitioners and policy-makers.

The Palgrave Handbook of Creativity at Work is co-edited with my colleague and friend Lee Martin. It is comprised of 30 chapters which explore the subject from a diverse set of perspectives. As I outline in the final chapter's synthesis of ideas, I believe that the handbook offers a genuinely new, constructive (albeit challenging) way of thinking about creativity (at work) as a structured practice of care. Chapters are available to download here.

Entries I've written on "authenticity", "early music", and "Werktreue" are included in this new comprehensive encyclopedia of historical performance in music (2018).


I was honoured that my article "What's the problem? Cultural capability and learning from Historical Performance" features in this inaugural edition of  Historical Performance (2018). For more details click here.

Huffington Post article (24th May, 2017) by Tony Woodcock discusses the 'Entrepreneurship in Music' conference in Oslo, Norway in April, 2017, in which I gave the opening Keynote.


As a conflation of the words ‘creativity’ and ‘if’ (as in ‘what if?’), creatifity carrys with it an aspirational message about human creativity that is imaginative, emancipatory, and value-positive. This is a message that informs my approach to creativity research and practice.

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties”
Erich Fromm


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