Not always, according to Allen Jones, especially when they have not seen the artwork in its finished state and in its intended environment.
Mr Jones said: 'You are always going to get someone saying 'What's it meant to be?' What happens is that once it's there in front of them they come to relate to it.'
To test his theory, Independent London went to the Chelsea and Westminster hospital where his 60-ft high steel sculpture Acrobatic Dancer was unveiled last year.
A straw poll among doctors, patients and others yielded comments ranging from positive and enthusiastic praise to evident bemusement with the odd negative remark.
William English, a caretaker from Morden, said: 'It's very attractive, and has a nice atmosphere about it. It seems American, out of place. I thought it was a private hospital. It's much better than the same old dark caverns you used to get 50 or 60 years ago.'
Karen Trogstad, of Barnes, a junior sister on the paediatrics ward which overlooks the atrium, thought the sculpture was appropriate for the children. 'It's quite bright and cheerful. It helps make a pleasant working environment.
Some vistors confessed to being baffled. In the coffee area overlooking the atrium, Margaret Peters, a visitor from east London, said: 'I sit here every day. It's nice and bright, but I can't really make it out.'
A group from Fulham preferred the old kind of sculpture and thought Jones's work more suitable for a zoo. 'I thought it was a seal, said one woman. 'But from downstairs I could see it. You can see where his foot touches the wall.'
Two hospital registrars, who asked not to be named - perhaps fearing to give an inaccurate diagnosis - thought the statue entertaining. It meant the hospital had become a sight-seeing spot for tourists.
Arguably the most perceptive comment came from Daniel Ross, four, from Chelsea. He can see the sculpture's big red ball from his bed. 'It looks like a big giant lollipop,' he said before turning back to afternoon cartoons on the ward television.
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