New Study Reveals That Looking Up Makes Us Think “Masterpiece”

Marketing art starts with positioning a painting higher on the wall. This produces more positive, awe-filled feelings from your viewer according to a recent CUNY study.
Positioning a painting higher on the wall produces more positive, awe-filled feelings from your viewer according to a recent CUNY study.

Data That Helps Us with Marketing Art

New research out of the City University of New York reveals that a painting hung slightly higher than eye level (at approximately 6 ft above the floor) is more likely to be evaluated as having aesthetic worth.

The size of a painting also increased perceived value. Same for when people believe a painting is from a master artist (as opposed to a student). This is great data for those of us photographing and marketing art.

To artists who have hung their works in exhibitions, the height you hang a painting and sizing details might seem like a no-brainer, but the science behind it is fascinating–and it’s a reminder of what not to forget when you hang your next art show.

Size and Height Mean Importance

The college students surveyed by CUNY reported thinking paintings they thought were painted by masters were larger and closer to them than they actually were. Works that were presented as fake were seen as smaller and farther away from the viewer.

Paintings hung high were given more worth. Art hung lower than eye level, less worth; and works hung at eye-level got a mix of positive and negative responses.

Furthermore, the study’s participants were shown the same painting twice–one version smaller than the other. The majority attested that the larger version was the superior one.

Marketing art that sits high on the wall and is of a substantial size will be perceived positively.
Marketing art that sits high on the wall and is of a substantial size will be perceived positively.

Big Makes You Feel Awe

The report notes that “awe makes people feel smaller.” Just think about the way you feel in front of the ocean–diminished and overwhelmed. Awe-inspired and humbled, right? Apparently it is the same with masterful paintings.

Looking Up Means a Positive Outlook

The CUNY study reports that the physical act of looking up makes us think certain things. Take note of that, artists. When you are marketing art to the public or shooting images of your work in exhibitions, make sure they are hung on the high side. When people look up they think positive feelings when they are literally “looking up.”

“Feeling happy is experientially related to upright posture,” the report notes. “Thus things that make us happy may be metaphorically linked to higher elevation.”

“Historically speaking,” the researchers conclude, “the relationship between great magnitudes and magnificence has been a dominant theme in the history of art.”

Artists — What to Do

+Make sure to hang your paintings on the high side. At least six feet above the ground.

+When you are creating a body of work, while uniform canvas sizes might give you a consistent look and feel, consider painting one significantly larger piece. And price it to match! That large masterpiece will be perceived as such!

Enjoy!

Courtney

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

2 thoughts on “New Study Reveals That Looking Up Makes Us Think “Masterpiece”

  1. Interesting!
    We’re moving from a high ceiling house to a low ceiling home and placing wall art higher is recommended to give illusion of higher ceilings. This is great info for our upcoming spatial challenge!
    Question: what portion of the artwork is at least 6 feet? The bottom edge?

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