How to hang an abstract painting…


George Mather a British psychologist did two experiments to see if people thought there was a right way (and by extension, a wrong way) to hang an abstract painting. He had seen the Black on Maroon series of paintings (two, three) that Mark Rothko originally did for Phyllis Lambert and were the catalyst for the Rothko Chapel in Houston and ultimately donated to the Tate in England (and received on the day Rothko killed himself) and noted that at various times the stripes were horizontal and at other times they were vertical.

After noting that there had been five other similar experiments done since 1970, none offering any real conclusive evidence either way he decided to to test his own hypothesis. Adding in something called the Fourier amplitude spectrum slope and testing to see if it also played a role in how people thought abstract paintings should be hung. As he says in the conclusion “In agreement with anecdotal reports from galleries, the judgements of nonexpert viewers accord with the intended orientation for abstract or semiabstract art at levels well above chance. However, performance is far from perfect, consistent with results in previous studies.” – Note to self, if I ever need an easy way to get press, redo study once again.