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America's most wanted painting

Posted by Sebastian Smee  November 10, 2010 04:26 PM

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1943.114.jpgTuesday's "Frame by Frame" - a series of short pieces on art treasures tucked away in the permanent collections of New England museums - focused on Albert Bierstadt's "The Coming Storm," which is at the Addison Gallery of American Art at Andover. Yefim Somin, of Lexington, wrote to me today to point out the uncanny similarities between Biertstadt's imagined landscape and "America's Most Wanted Painting." The latter is a landscape which is the composite result of a poll designed and sponsored by the bright and mischievous artistic duo Komar and Melamid. As part of "Komar and Melamid's Scientific Guide to Painting," they polled members of the public in an array of different countries in order to find out what people most wanted in a painting.

Bringing democracy to the art world? That was the idea. The results, they found, were depressingly consistent wherever they did their polling.

Is there a Darwinian explanation? Dennis Dutton, the author of "The Art Instinct," thinks so. I personally find Darwinian explanations reductive and rather tedious when they expand into fields beyond the so-called natural world. But it's hard to dispute them. At any rate, Bierstadt was clearly onto something.

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Culture Desk is a blog that serves to highlight both local and national stories of interest in the worlds of art, music, movies, TV, theater and more. Most items are written by writers and editors from The Boston Globe arts and culture staff.

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