Stark gender differences in art appreciation revealed

The market for art is worth US$65B worldwide but there has been little research conducted on how consumers actually determine the worth of artwork. Now, a new study co-authored by Michigan State University’s Stephanie Mangus (pictured) has found that the sexes show stark differences in how they evaluate art.

The study, which appears in Psychology & Marketing, involved 518 subjects who looked at two unfamiliar paintings with made-up biographies of the artist. Some participants read a bio that characterized the artist as authentic – in other words, a lifelong painter who creates unique work. Others read a bio that characterized the artist as an ordinary painter who took up the craft only recently.

When the artist was characterized as authentic, participants had a much more favorable impression of both the artist and the artwork. Participants indicated they were more willing to buy that artist’s painting and to pay a higher price for it.

Men were much more likely to use the artist’s “brand” as a deciding factor when evaluating art. Women also took the artist’s authenticity into account, but a bigger factor for them was the artwork itself. “Women are more willing to go through a complicated process of actually evaluating the artwork,” Mangus said, “whereas men may say, ‘This guy’s a great artist, so I’ll buy his art.'”

“For the average person trying to purchase art, knowing something about the artist – and knowing that the artist is authentic – can reduce the risk of buying a worthless piece,” she added. “All consumers in the study, but especially men, evaluated art with a strong emphasis on how motivated and passionate the artist was. So if you’re an artist or if you’re managing an artist, developing that human brand – getting the message across that you’re authentic – becomes essential.”

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Source: Michigan State University

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