SCIENTIFIC STUDIES OF ART
According to a new study reported in The Telegraph in May 2011, brain scans have revealed that a work of art considered beautiful by the viewer increases blood flow in the medial orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with pleasure and desire.
Click here to read the article on the brain and art in its entirety on The Telegraph‘s website.
People were placed in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner and shown a series of paintings in quick succession. The “ugliest” works, by artists such as Hieronymus Bosch, Honore Damier and Quentin Massys, produced small increases in blood flow while works by John Constable, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and Guido Reni were considered the most “beautiful” because they led to the greatest pleasure response in the subjects.
“The blood flow increased for a beautiful painting just as it increases when you look at somebody you love,” said Professor Semir Zeki, who conducted the study at University College London.
Tests were carried out on people who had little prior knowledge of art because the scientific team did not want subjects that were “influenced by current tastes and the fashionability of the artist.”
This leads us to some challenging questions. Why does a beautiful landscape by John Constable increase blood flow and create greater pleasure than an “ugly” painting by Hieronymus Bosch? Had the viewer received art education, would this response change?
What makes art beautiful was the subject of a recent Intelligence Squared (IQ2) Asia debate called “Art Must Be Beautiful (part of which is shown in the video above), which was held during ART HK 11. Click here to read our interview with Simon de Pury, IQ2 debater and leading auctioneer, to find out what he thinks makes art beautiful.
- Fighting fakes in Asia: Pioneering technology from Cranfield University and Bonhams may help – June 2011 – collaborative forensic science research project represents significant advances in authentication of art objects
- New Taiwanese book focusses on personal connection with art – September 2010 – a Taiwanese scholar has published a book focussing on the stories behind the creation of fifteen of the island’s public art installations
- Top Australian media artists introduced at Art Taipei – public lecture by Antoanetta Ivanova – September 2010 – top Australian new media artists work with science-art crossover
- Young Chinese artist Lu Yang brings anti-humanist elements to the Hong Kong art scene – June 2010 – finding scientific teams to collaborate with in China is a challenge science for recent graduate artist Yang
- New technologies for spotting art fakes gain acceptance – Forbes – December 2008 – a look at software tools that are affordable and in some cases even free
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