Something that is difficult to obtain tends to be appreciated more than something that is easy to obtain.
For example, people rate the same wine more highly when it has an expensive price tag.
We can use this information to design a new style of art museum that will be a huge hit with all art aficionados.
Traditional museums (Fig. 1) barrage the viewer with fine art at a relentless pace. It becomes hard to appreciate the technical skill of a single painting when 948 of the world’s finest 19th century impressionist paintings are crammed into a single.
So we need to both slow down the viewer and make them feel like they are engaging with the art, rather than being bombarded by it.
The solution is to turn every art gallery into a harrowing obstacle course. It won’t be possible to just dismissively waltz through a gallery that represents 40,000 hours of oil painting effort. No—if you want to see the art in this gallery, you will need to work for it.
- Lift a heavy wall that is obscuring a work of art (Figure 2).
- Swim through an underwater passageway (Figure 3).
The trial that you must endure in order to view the art could also follow the theme of the art in some way. For example:
- Sit on a wooden plank for an hour, baking in the hot sun, with no food, shelter, or water. If you can manage that, then the plank will lower into a vault that hosts The Raft of the Medusa.
- Traverse a hallway that is constantly being pelted by paintballs from an automated gun in order to prove your worthiness to view the Jackson Pollock collection.
- Order some soup at the art museum cafeteria. Then present your receipt to an attendant in order to be admitted to the Andy Warhol collection.
- Push an enormous boulder up a ramp and onto a pressure plate in order to gain entrance to the Titian collection, featuring The Myth of Sisyphus.
- Face your fears and wade through a pit of snakes in order to view . . . oh wait, it’s just the gift shop? No wonder no one buys anything.
Other options would surely present themselves to a creative museum curator. A few ideas:
- Hold perfectly still in front of a sensor. After 2 minutes, a window will open, allowing you to see the artwork. If you move, the window closes again.
- Use a pair of binoculars to find the work of art, which has been placed in an alcove on a distant high-rise apartment.
- Pedal a bike fast enough to generate the power required to electromagnetically lift shutters that block your view of a painting.
- Climb a knotted rope up to a lofted gallery.
- Work together with several people to press a set of buttons simultaneously, which will briefly reveal a work of art.
PROS: This museum will let art aficionados really demonstrate their dedication.
CONS: Many rich museum donors are 80+ years old, and would be at high risk of being devoured by crocodiles in the “rope swing” obstacle. This would prevent them from making further donations to the museum.