The Loh Down On Science

What makes art good or bad? No easy answers for this complicated question.

Thomas Kinkade

Think you might be snooty?  Try the Thomas Kinkade challenge!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Is bad art truly bad?  Or just unfamiliar?

Researchers were recently curious about a 2003 art study.  In it, volunteers viewed Impressionist paintings considered masterpieces, but which were not well known.

After repeated exposure, the volunteers liked the paintings more and more.

The study concluded that we like an artwork the more we see it.

But the study only used acknowledged masterpieces. 

The researchers wondered:  What about bad art?   If the prior study was correct, wouldn’t exposure make bad art seem better?

To find out, they had volunteers view landscape paintings by two artists.  One?  Highly respected pre-Raphaelite painter, John Everett Millais.  The other?  Late, American landscape painter, Thomas Kinkade.  Millions love his work.  But critics call it kitschy.  Sugar drenched.  Cringe inducing.

After repeated viewings, the volunteers’ positive opinion of Millais’ paintings stayed constant. But opinions on Kinkade's paintings?  Tanked.  Everyone’s a critic!

The researchers say this shows the more we see bad art?  The more bad we see.

OK, but my lava lamp stays!

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


blog comments powered by Disqus