What Art Dealers Know and You Don’t

If you want to increase the value of a painting, pay attention to where you hang it.

What makes you fall in love with a painting? There are many reasons you might be drawn to a particular picture—maybe it’s the colors or the brushstrokes or the image that captivates you. Perhaps it is the story behind a painting that brings it to life. I have always loved Cy Twombly but learning how Rilke’s poetry inspired the Rose series further deepened my appreciation.

An interesting new study suggests an entirely different reason why a picture might appeal to you—where it hangs on the wall. Participants were asked to look at Wassily Kandinsky’s Sky Blue. They were randomly assigned to view it hanging in one of three locations on the wall: above eye level, at eye level or below eye level—and then asked to rate it.

Those who evaluated the painting while looking up gave it the highest rating. Those who looked down upon it gave it the lowest rating. It is unclear why the painting’s physical location influenced participant’s reactions to the picture but researchers believe it may have something to do with the way a physical experience can influence emotions.

For example, a Yale psychologist found that holding a warm cup of coffee makes people feel more warmly towards strangers. In this case, gazing upwards at the Kandinsky may increase feelings of awe or inspiration whereas looking down on something may have the opposite effect.

If only I knew that in 10th grade art class. I would have hung my abysmal paintings of my dog higher on the wall. Perhaps the art teacher would have liked them more…

I wish you all the best,

Dr. Samantha Boardman