Theories on restorative environments (Hartig, 2004), such as Attention Restoratyion Theory (ART; Kaplan and Kaplan, 1989) identify four environmental properties which promote restoration: being away, fascination, extent and compatibility. Can art museums with the art collection hosted respond to these general properties of environmental settings according to the ART model? Are these properties present also when a person engages in a visit to an art museum? Are art museums settings capable to promote the recovery of psychological well-being, identified through stress reduction, increase in positive emotions, and renewal of cognitive resources? Can they be considered as restorative settings? Not many studies dealt with the museums experience connected to restoration and stress. Findings of a study by Clow and Fredhoi (2006) suggest a reduction of the stress level during a visit to an art gallery. Also, a study by Mastandrea et. al (2007) found that the physical aspects of a museum environment was evaluated more attractive, beautiful and interesting when characterized by the presence of natural elements such as light, plants, water, etc., together with objects (works of art, sculptures), compared to a museum not characterized by such environmental components. Considering the visit itself as restorative, this study aims to observe if museums of ancient art (realistic or figurative artworks) vs. museums of modern/contemporary art (avant-garde and abstract paintings, installations and performances) are able to promote the recovering from stress and fatigue at different levels. Is there a preferential museum art style to better promote a restorative experience in museum users? Our aim is also to take into consideration two museums differentiated for the art collections hosted (ancient vs. modern) and with self-report and physiological measures (heart rate, blood pressure and, possibly, cortisol hormone) taken before and after the visit in both these kind of artistic settings, in order to test the possible restorative outcomes. We also aim at testing the existence of possible differences in relation to different visitors’ individual characteristics such as age, personality traits (e.g., sensation seeking, mental openness, preference for abstraction/concreteness) education, and level of art expertise. The data collection, still in progress, will be conducted in different parts of the National Gallery of Modern Art (Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna . GNAM) located in Rome, Italy. We expect that the general properties of environmental settings according to the ART model can be also related to the restorative potential of the art museum; in turn, we predict that the restorative potential of the art museum can vary according to the different art styles experienced, with realistic or figurative artworks being more restorative compared to avant-garde and abstract paintings, installations and performances. The practical and theoretical implications of the study will be discussed.
Mastandrea S, Maricchiolo F, Scopelliti M, & Carrus G (2013). Art museum as restorative environments?. In Sutainable Environments on a Changing Global Context, Book of Proceedings – Abstract (pp.208-209).