When it comes to art, taste matters more than ‘mere exposure’

I’ve fallen in love with works of art in my time. The kind of all-consuming ‘at first sight’ love that has to possess – at whatever cost – the object of beauty. I’ve bought paintings that made me stop still in my tracks, that reached out and tickled my spine and twisted the valves of my heart. Oh, and maxed out my credit card. But for me, they are priceless because I remain in awe of the way the art speaks to me on a level of colour and soul that black-and-white words can never quite reach.

inktuition art

Once I’ve fallen in love with a piece of art, there’s no going back. And I don’t care whether the artwork is considered ‘good’ or ‘bad’ by critics or experts. I love it, and that’s all there is to it. (Even these cute pieces by my daughter, above).

Which is why I was fascinated to read about an experiment carried out by the University of Leeds, which asked if increased exposure to a piece of art will make us like it more. The experiment pulls on the theory of  ‘mere exposure‘, which says that we’ll start liking something if we keep seeing it often enough.

Except that we don’t. The 100 students who took part in the study still hated the ‘bad’ art even when exposed to it, and the researchers concluded that “quality, and not just familiarity, remains in the picture”.

The full findings appear in a paper, Mere Exposure to Bad Art, published in the British Journal of Aesthetics. But I think the key point they make is this: “At issue is the role that artistic quality plays in determining our aesthetic tastes.”

Quite. I think they’ve proved my point.

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