Art Collecting as a Way of Building Sensory-Rich Environments

One of the relevant questions for anyone considering to invest in art are the benefits of a personal art collection beyond the perks of financial return. Art is one of the asset classes that gains an increased popularity among the investors due to its potential to diversify the portfolio, bring long-term returns and financial stability. But how do the benefits of art collecting extend beyond financial opportunities?

Art, in its various forms, has the ability to transcend its visual domain and communicate with a multitude of human senses. Social prescribing, which envisions contact with art as a form of treatment, ties with scientists and art historians’ joint efforts to understand the effects of art on the human brain. Such initiatives have proved that being surrounded by art contributes to our physical and mental health by offering a holistic cognitive experience beyond visual perception. Interacting with artworks simply through the act of looking activates sensation, memory, learning and attention – the very parts of the nervous system responsible for cognition.1 Such mechanisms in response to art prove that neither our brains nor bodies remain untouched when we are surrounded by art.

In their latest book Your Brain on Art, Susan Magsamen and Ivy Ross explore human reactions to aesthetic experiences to understand how art can help us to heal as individuals and thrive as communities. A point of departure for their argument is the fact that ‘our brains process stimuli constantly, like a sponge, absorbing millions of sensory signals.’2 These observations shed light on the idea of building sensory-rich environments through art and how our minds and bodies can be enriched by immersion in such spaces.



A carefully curated art collection exposes us to the textures, colors, and shapes that activate senses. Sculptures, paintings, and multimedia installations bring a tactile quality to a space, inviting sensory experience through touch, sight and even smell. Consequently, art collecting has evolved into a means of crafting sensory-rich environments that evoke emotions as much as stimulate visual pleasure. An example of such thinking can be seen among recent architectural initiatives, such as Windward House by Alison Brooks Architects, in which a small gallery displaying 100 works was integrated into the main staircase of the client’s home. Carefully curated relationships between art and senses are also a hallmark of Kettle's Yard, in which a collection of paintings and sculptures by artists including Joan Miró, Marc Chagall and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska establishes a dialogue with natural light and personal objects displayed across the rooms. Once a home of Jim and Helen Ede, Kettle’s Yard is currently a museum space, which preserves Ede’s original arrangement of space.



Because senses contribute to the encoding of information in the brain, a daily exposure to art can help us improve memory formation and the way we recall information. Spaces filled with art, as the examples of sensory-rich environments, help us retain information, which is why public spaces, schools, and workplaces are often being redesigned to amplify the learning experience. 

Art collecting is a powerful means of shaping environments that engage our senses. Beyond the aesthetic pleasure, a carefully curated collection becomes both a personal narrative and a sensory journey. In a world that often feels fast-paced, the act of collecting and experiencing art activates the senses, fostering connection, introspection, and a deeper appreciation for the beauty around us.


Susan Magsamen and Ivy Ross, Your Brain on Art



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