Truly experiencing the beauty of an object could require conscious thought, vindicating the ideas of Immanuel Kant
The “Mona Lisa,” one of the world’s most famous works of art, hangs on a featureless tan wall in a large, sparse room in the Louvre. There’s little to draw one’s eye away from Leonardo da Vinci’s small painting. Now a psychologist argues that this design scheme, common in traditional art museums from the early 20th century onward, actually plays into human psychology—because humans that aren’t distracted are better able to appreciate beauty. “Museums have often tried separate art from life and to create a pure, neutral environment,” says Ellen Lupton, senior curator of contemporary design at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.