Does art with intention sell better?

Today I would like to invite you to another thought experiment about our perception of art: Can my appreciation of art, my personal feelings, change if I know the artist’s story or intention if he or she has one? If so, why can it change our aesthetic perception? Does the story/intention distort our pure, innermost first impression of an artwork? Is it bad if art is simply beautiful and has no story or intention?

As an art lover, I’ve often found myself wondering about the role of the artist’s intention in our perception and appreciation of their work. Can our understanding of an artwork be changed if we know the artist’s story or what he or she was trying to express? 

Of course, self-promotion and presentation are a very important part of an artist’s work and, among other things, form the essential basis for increasing the value of his or her art – that’s just how the art market works. Therefore, I will leave this aspect out of this thought experiment. I would only like to refer to one’s own, personal perception.

Just some random rectangles in a frame. No artist. No intention. © Aesence

Different experiences, different perceptions

Our perceptions are shaped by our own personal experiences and worldview, and so any new information we learn about an artist changes the way we see their work. 

For example, if we know that an artist struggled with mental illness, we may see his or her paintings in a very different light. We may see them as expressions of inner turmoil rather than just beautiful paintings – this can add new depth and meaning to the work. Similarly, if we know that an artist was trying to convey a certain message with his or her work, we may see it in a different light.

But these are all things that I do not know during my first impression. Is my perception of the artwork not purest and most unadulterated then?
What if I want to conserve this first impression, this feeling during my first viewing?

In this case, am I not experiencing art as it should be experienced? Is it wrong if art is simply beautiful? Or to look at it another way: Does the quality of art change if there is no intention or backstory? Would we as viewers feel a difference? Can art be made more beautiful retrospectively through interpretation?

What are your thoughts on this thought experiment? I look forward to exchanges via Twitter or leave me a comment below this article!

About Exploring Aesthetics:

Sarah loves asking questions and exploring the things she engages with on a daily basis. Exploring aesthetics is her column which discusses art, design, and aesthetics to explore, inspire, and question the status quo.

  1. It’s interesting to think about how our perception of art changes when we learn more about the artist and their intention.

    However, I’m not sure if I would necessarily say that our first impression is always the purest and most unadulterated. In some ways, it might be more accurate to say that it’s the most uninformed. We may see something totally different when we know the context and meaning behind it.

    That being said, there’s definitely something to be said for wanting to preserve that first impression. It can be a very powerful and moving experience to see art without knowing anything about it beforehand. There’s a certain rawness and vulnerability to it.

    In the end, I think it depends on what you’re looking for in art. If you want to simply appreciate its beauty, then you might not need to know anything about the artist or their intention. But if you’re looking for something more, then learning more about the artwork can definitely enhance your experience.

    1. I think it’s important to remember that our own personal experiences and worldview also play a role in shaping our perception of art. Therefore, even if we know the artist’s story or intention, we may still see the artwork differently than the artist intended!!

  2. I think it’s interesting to think about how our perception of art can be changed by knowing the artist’s story or intention. I think it can definitely add new depth and meaning to the work. However, I also think that there is something to be said for experiencing art in its purest form, without any preconceived notions or expectations. Just appreciating the artwork for its beauty.

  3. I have read your article carefully and I agree with you very much. This has provided a great help for my thesis writing, and I will seriously improve it.

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Aesence is an independent art and design publication dedicated to minimalist aesthetics. Founded out of a deep appreciation and fascination, Aesence aims to promote awareness and appreciation of minimalism in art and design.