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Do you like weird art? Blame your brain – Science Magazine

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A new algorithm can predict who is likely to prefer abstract art, like this unnamed Mark Rothko painting on display at Sotheby’s in New York City.

Benno Schwinghammer/picture alliance via Getty Image

To many people’s eyes, artist Mark Rothko’s enormous paintings are little more than swaths of color. Yet a Rothko can fetch nearly $100 million. Meanwhile, Pablo Picasso’s warped faces fascinate some viewers and terrify others.

Why do our perceptions of beauty differ so widely? The answer may lie in our brain networks. Researchers have now developed an algorithm that can predict art preferences by analyzing how a person’s brain breaks down visual information and decides whether a painting is “good.” The findings show for the first time how intrinsic features of a painting combine with human judgment to give art value in our minds.

Most people—including researchers—consider art preferences to be all over the map, says Anjan Chatterjee, a neurologist and cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania who was not involved in the study. Many preferences are rooted in biology–sugary foods, for instance, help us survive. And people tend to share similar standards of beauty when it comes to human faces and landscapes. But when it comes to art, “There are relatively arbitrary things we seem to care about and value,” Chatterjee says.

To figure out how the brain forms value judgments about art, computational neuroscientist Kiyohito Iigaya and his colleagues at the California Institute of Technology first asked more than 1300 volunteers on the crowdsourcing website Amazon Mechanical Turk to rate a selection of 825 paintings from four Western genres including impressionism, cubism, abstract art, and color field painting. Volunteers were all over the age of 18, but researchers didn’t specify their familiarity with art or their ethnic or national origin.

Using an algorithm to reveal patterns in connections between datapoints, the researchers found that paintings preferred by the same groups of people tended to share certain visual characteristics. These characteristics all fell into two categories: “Low-level” characteristics, like contrast and hue, were intrinsic to an image. “High-level” characteristics, like the emotion a painting elicited, required human interpretation.

Once the algorithm was trained, it could analyze these characteristics in new paintings and accurately predict which works a person would like, the researchers report this month on the preprint server bioRxiv. It also correctly grouped the works into categories that corresponded to the paintings’ characteristics and volunteers’ preferences, across and within art genres. People tended to group into three clusters: one that liked concrete, clear images; one that liked dynamic images; and one that preferred abstract art. Even within these genres, however, the algorithm was able to predict an individual’s specific preferences.

Next, the researchers repeated the experiment with six volunteers, showing each person 1000 paintings while using functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan their brains. The scans revealed that the visual cortex—the part of the brain that receives visual information from the eyes—was active in ways suggesting it was integrating the low-level information with the high-level characteristics, Iigaya says. This information, he adds, then feeds into brain regions known to be associated with value judgments, allowing the person to form an overall opinion of the painting.

Finally, to see whether the same process was happening with other kinds of images, the researchers showed a set of 716 photographs to a new group of 382 Mechanical Turk volunteers. The algorithm was similarly good at predicting individuals’ preferences, based on their previous ratings and characteristics of the photos like contrast and motion. Iigaya says this suggests the factors that contribute to whether a person likes an image are universal.

Using brain imaging on something as ambiguous as artwork is ambitious, says Lesley Fellows, a neurologist at McGill University who studies the neural basis of value judgments. “We know a lot about how the brain carries out actions,” such as deciding to buy artwork or spending time looking at it, she says. Why we do things is far less well understood. “The ‘why’ is really fundamental.”

Iigaya acknowledges the sample was too small and not diverse enough to represent all people: Factors such as age, education level, and culture can also affect art preference. But Chatterjee says the brain pathways are likely similar, even if a person’s taste in art differs significantly. “This is not the whole story, just a small variance we can explain,” Iigaya says.

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Chapel Hill Art + Transit partners with local artists for LGBTQ+ themed designs – The Daily Tar Heel

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Chapel Hill’s Art + Transit program unveiled a new LGBTQ+ themed bus and bus shelter after partnering with two local queer artists.  

The bus, titled “Can’t Stop Pride,” is a collaboration between Art + Transit and the Town’s LGBTQIA+ Employee Resource Group.   

Staff members of the group chose Durham artist Wutang McDougal for the bus’ design, which features LGBTQ+ imagery within a bright color palette. McDougal did not respond to The Daily Tar Heel’s requests for comment.

Raleigh-based installation artist Jane Cheek designed the bus shelter, “We Knew Intersectionality Was the Way Forward,” which features overlapping circles that display the colors of the Progress Pride Flag. 

Including the Pride installation, nine new bus shelters and one art bus now join the more than 30 art installations on local transit infrastructure. Art + Transit,  an initiative led by Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture and Chapel Hill Transit, began its initiative in 2018 to make commutes more vibrant through bus and bus shelter art.

Steve Wright, the public art coordinator for Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture, said Art + Transit wanted to focus specifically on LGBTQ+ Pride. 

“For the bus wrap, we definitely knew we wanted to have a wrap themed for Pride,” Wright said.

In their artist statement, McDougal said they wanted to represent pride in Black queerness, the transgender community and queer love through the design. 

Cheek said that while the Town didn’t give specific thematic guidelines for the piece, her focus involved building community and increasing queer visibility.  

“I know for me personally, one of the things that makes me feel welcomed or safe is seeing Pride flags,” Cheek said. “So incorporating that into my work has been kind of a theme recently.”

Brian Litchfield, Chapel Hill’s transit director, said the Art + Transit program centers around enlivening the community, making art more accessible for community members and supporting local artists.  

“This year one of our focuses was on supporting local artists and also providing an opportunity to express our support and values related to the LGBTQIA+ community,” he said. 

The other new bus shelter installations feature varying themes, ranging from Antonio Alanis’ “Sun,” which draws inspiration from Latin American designs, to Sally Gregoire’s “Barning Around in North Carolina,” which is an acknowledgment of the agricultural history of North Carolina, according to her artist statement on the piece.

Collage artist and photographer Sara Roberts said her installation, “Blooms Over Chapel Hill,” was primarily aimed at bringing joy to community members. Roberts said her art is heavily inspired by her time spent in nature while growing up in North Carolina.           

“For this particular installation, I just wanted to capture the bright things in the community,” Roberts said. “I just wanted people to find some light.”  

Her floral design incorporates Chapel Hill landmarks like the Old Well and Varsity Theatre, and each petal features her original photography from the area. 

Roberts said a large part of the project involved giving back to the community in a way that was readily accessible.

“As artists, we love people,” she said. “And the best way we can give back to people is through public art, and I think it’s super, super important.”

Wright said Art + Transit plans to continue its public art initiative in the spring when there will be a new round of bus shelter installations and an additional art bus.       

@taylorbarnhill_

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 

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Tehran Unveils Western Art Masterpieces Hidden for Decades – Voice of America – VOA News

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Some of the world’s most prized works of contemporary Western art have been unveiled for the first time in decades — in Tehran.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, a hard-line cleric, rails against the influence of the West. Authorities have lashed out at “deviant” artists for “attacking Iran’s revolutionary culture.” And the Islamic Republic has plunged further into confrontation with the United States and Europe as it rapidly accelerates its nuclear program and diplomatic efforts stall.

Visitors look at artworks by the American artist Sol Lewitt while visiting a 19th and 20th-century American and European minimalist and conceptual masterpieces show at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran, Iran, Aug. 2, 2022.


Visitors look at artworks by the American artist Sol Lewitt while visiting a 19th and 20th-century American and European minimalist and conceptual masterpieces show at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran, Iran, Aug. 2, 2022.

But contradictions abound in the Iranian capital, where thousands of well-heeled men and hijab-clad women marveled at 19th- and 20th-century American and European minimalist and conceptual masterpieces on display this summer for the first time at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.

On a recent August afternoon, art critics and students were delighted at Marcel Duchamp’s see-through 1915 mural, “The Large Glass,” long interpreted as an exploration of erotic frustration.

They gazed at a rare 4-meter (13-foot) untitled sculpture by American minimalist pioneer Donald Judd and one of Sol Lewitt’s best-known serial pieces, “Open Cube,” among other important works. The Judd sculpture, consisting of a horizontal array of lacquered brass and aluminum panels, is likely worth millions of dollars.

“Setting up a show with such a theme and such works is a bold move that takes a lot of courage,” said Babak Bahari, 62, who was viewing the exhibit of 130 works for the fourth time since it opened in late June. “Even in the West these works are at the heart of discussions and dialogue.”

Visitors look at artworks by the American artist Sol Lewitt while visiting a 19th and 20th-century American and European minimalist and conceptual masterpieces show at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran, Iran, Aug. 2, 2022.


Visitors look at artworks by the American artist Sol Lewitt while visiting a 19th and 20th-century American and European minimalist and conceptual masterpieces show at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran, Iran, Aug. 2, 2022.

The government of Iran’s Western-backed shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and his wife, the former Empress Farah Pahlavi, built the museum and acquired the multibillion-dollar collection in the late 1970s, when oil boomed and Western economies stagnated. Upon opening, it showed sensational works by Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, Claude Monet, Jackson Pollock and other heavyweights, enhancing Iran’s cultural standing on the world stage.

But just two years later, in 1979, Shiite clerics ousted the shah and packed away the art in the museum’s vault. Some paintings — cubist, surrealist, impressionist, even pop art — sat untouched for decades to avoid offending Islamic values and catering to Western sensibilities.

But during a thaw in Iran’s hard-line politics, the art started to resurface. While Andy Warhol’s paintings of the Pahlavis and some choice nudes are still hidden in the basement, much of the museum’s collection has been brought out to great fanfare as Iran’s cultural restrictions have eased.

Two women visit a 19th and 20th-century American and European minimalist and conceptual masterpieces show at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran, Iran, Aug. 2, 2022.


Two women visit a 19th and 20th-century American and European minimalist and conceptual masterpieces show at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran, Iran, Aug. 2, 2022.

The ongoing exhibit on minimalism, featuring 34 Western artists, has captured particular attention. Over 17,000 people have made the trip since it opened, the museum said — nearly double the footfall of past shows.

Curator Behrang Samadzadegan credits a recent renewed interest in conceptual art, which first shocked audiences in the 1960s by drawing on political themes and taking art out of traditional galleries and into the wider world.

The museum’s spokesperson, Hasan Noferesti, said the size of the crowds coming to the exhibition, which lasts until mid-September, shows the thrill of experiencing long-hidden modern masterpieces.

It also attests to the enduring appetite for art among Iran’s young generation. Over 50% of the country’s roughly 85 million people are under 30 years old.

A visitor looks at artworks by German artists Bernd and Hilla Becher while visiting a 19th and 20th-century American and European minimalist and conceptual masterpieces show at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran, Iran, Aug. 2, 2022.


A visitor looks at artworks by German artists Bernd and Hilla Becher while visiting a 19th and 20th-century American and European minimalist and conceptual masterpieces show at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran, Iran, Aug. 2, 2022.

Despite their country’s deepening global isolation, and fears that their already limited social and cultural freedoms may be further curtailed under the hard-line government elected a year ago, young Iranians are increasingly exploring the international art world on social media. New galleries are buzzing. Art and architecture schools are thriving.

“These are good works of art, you don’t want to imitate them,” said Mohammad Shahsavari, a 20-year-old architecture student standing before Lewitt’s cube structure. “Rather, you get inspiration from them.”

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The Lake Country art gallery is selling some absolutely terrible art – Kelowna News – Castanet.net

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It’s your chance to get your hands on what the Lake Country Art Gallery is calling terrible art.

“Most art galleries ask artists to donate a piece of one of their treasured artwork but not us at the Lake Country Art Gallery; we’ve asked for — Terrible, Horrible, Absolutely No Good, Awful Drawings — drawings so bad they’re good,” said the art gallery in a news release.

The art gallery will be hosting a night time picnic fundraiser Wednesday August 17 featuring a variety of art, vendors and music. For $25 you can guarantee yourself a piece of bad art to take home or you can prepare to bid up to $500 for your favourites.

All available artwork will be donated to the art gallery fundraiser from local artists, gallery staff, and members including sketches, paintings, lino prints, etchings, photographs and more.

Your $25 donation gets you a random piece of bad art, but if you want to choose one for yourself you’ll have to be the highest bidder by the end of the event.

The fundraiser kicks off at 5:00 p.m. and runs until 10:00 p.m.

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