Art In Healthcare: Representational vs. Abstract

Evidence-Based Art

When choosing art for a healthcare setting, it is important to choose art that will have a positive impact on the experience of patients, visitors, and staff members.  Evidence-Based Art is a sub-domain of Evidence-Based Design; whereas Evidence-Based Design examines many aspects of design, including how lighting, shapes, or acoustics can impact visitors, Evidence-Based Art focuses specifically on how to choose artwork that will positively impact patients and other visitors to the space.

Representational vs. Abstract

One of the key findings of Evidence-Based Art research is that representational art is more appropriate for healthcare settings than abstract art.

This can be difficult for some to understand, since in the art world abstract art is often critically well-received.  The reason is fairly simple, however.  It’s not that there is anything inherently bad about abstract art, but rather that abstract art will tend to amplify whatever emotions a person is currently feeling.  Because it is open to a wide range of interpretation, one person might look at an abstract piece of art and find it fascinating and wonderful, while another may look at the same piece and find it disturbing.

This is one of the things that makes abstract art so great in certain contexts, however in the healthcare setting it is best avoided.  Patients who are distressed and family members who are tired and nervous will tend to have their negative emotions magnified by the presence of abstract art, leading to even greater stress and discomfort.

Learn More

If you would like to learn more about Evidence-Based Art, please click on the highlighted words anywhere in this post to visit the relevant page on my website.  There you will find a basic overview, as well as a downloadable PDF with citations to several of the major studies that have established best practices for art in healthcare.

You may also visit the Art For Healthcare gallery on my website, where you will find images that have been selected based on this research.

Finally, please add your support to the work I am doing to improve healthcare with my art by becoming a contributor to my Patreon campaign.

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2 thoughts on “Art In Healthcare: Representational vs. Abstract

  1. Interesting post. I’ll definitely check out the links. I’d like to know who does the selection for a hospital, clinic, nursing home, etc. An artist, an administrator?

    I’m an artist, and I’d like to know how my art could be introduced to such a setting.

    • It varies from one facility to the next. Many hospitals have art committees that are in charge of selecting the art, while most clinics and smaller facilities leave this up to a consultant or employee.

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