On the Peripheries of Contemporary Paintings: Impact of Frame Decorativeness on the Reception of Abstract Artwork

Keywords: frame, contemporary art, experimental aesthetics, context effects, peripheral cues, reactance, art interest


By applying persuasion and consumer research findings to art appreciation we have checked whether and how artwork framing affects the evaluation of non-representational, abstract contemporary paintings. The frame can be treated as a cue signaling the value of the framed work—the more expensive it seems, the greater the value attached to the painting. However, the frame can be also seen as a means of exhibiting or promoting the picture. Exhibiting a painting in a frame that is perceived as excessively expensive can lead to a lowered rating of this painting. Both of these effects can be moderated by the perceivers’ interest in art. We conducted one experimental study, where participants evaluated paintings viewed either without a frame or framed in a simple or decorative frame. The results showed that decorative frames make paintings seem less valuable. Moreover, although simple frames do not affect the evaluation of the paintings by respondents with little interest in art, they impair the evaluation made by more interested participants. It seems that in certain conditions (highly visible frame or engaged perceivers) the frame can be treated as a form of promotion for the framed painting. And such attempts can backfire and negatively impact the evaluation of the painting.


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