A neurobiologist at University College London says he’s discovered that looking at art creates the same sensation as being in love. When Professor Semir Zeki showed his subjects images of art and then mapped their brains, he found that people experienced the same dopamine response in the orbito-frontal cortext of the brain when they looked at a work of art or the image of their lover.
Maybe this is why the Nasher Museum staff is giddy all the time?! Does working in a place full of beautiful things carry us along on a tidal wave of good vibrations? Beauty surely is in the eye of the beholder, however. I did my own quick survey among my fellow Nasher staffers, asking them to tell me what work from the museum’s collection they thought was the most beautiful. Responses ranged from our Renaissance Book of Hours to an ancient Greek pin decorated with bees, or our new painting by contemporary artist Jeff Sonhouse, Decompositioning. Finding out what people found beautiful was a fun experiment and initiated some interesting conversations.
Since looking at art can create the same sensation as being in love, and talking about art is a great way to get to know someone, the Nasher Museum is, therefore, the perfect location for date night! A fun way to explore art with someone is to spend a few minutes looking alone to find something you love and then something you hate—do this quickly and go with your first intuitive response. Don’t second-guess yourself or overthink! Then get back together and look at those works together, and talk about why you think you feel the way you do. Do you agree with the other person’s viewpoint? Can your mind be changed? Can you disagree and still be respectful of each other? All important relationship-building skills! And, while you’ve been looking at all those beautiful things, you might discover that your brain’s orbito-frontal cortex has been flooded with dopamine, and you’ll leave the museum floating on sunshine.
Remember that the Nasher Museum is open late on Thursday nights—5 to 9 PM—when admission is also free. And while you’re here, you can also enjoy our Summer Days, Nasher Nights programming.
IMAGE: Gold Disc with Bees, 700-600 BCE Diameter, 1 5/8 inches diameter, 3/4 inches depth. Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Anonymous Gift, 2006. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.