Friday, January 21, 2011

Increasing those visitor numbers

I blogged in April last year on the subject of building museum revenue and cited the Dallas Museum of Art's success in using qualitative visitor surveys to identify four types of visitor clusters, namely: Observers, Participants, Independents and Enthusiasts. The innovative strategies that have been implemented as a result of the surveys has resulted in a 100% increase in attendance, and is about to be published by the DMA with Yale University Press under the title Ignite the Power of Art; Advancing visitor engagement in Museum Experiences.


So what are these strategies?

• Establishment of the DMA's Center for Creative Connections, which encourages visitors to explore their own creativity and introduce them to new ways of experiencing art, ranging from filmmaking workshops to performance activities

• Introducing an Interactive exhibitions based program, by including immersive soundscapes with appropriate exhibitions, adding performances, and artists' talks within a dedicated space within the galleries, and including musical interludes

• Using Smartphone tours, cleverly marketed under the smARTphone label. This is an increasing part of the art museum scene, and DMA have taken to it wholeheartedly to provide access to supplemental information about the works. They cite examples as watching a video of Jackson Pollock painting whilst standing in front of one of his artworks, listening to excerpts from Ovid's Metamorphoses that inspired Jacques-Louis David's 1722 painting Apollo and the Diana attacking the children of Niobe, and discovering the meaning of Aramaic inscriptions that appear in a Roman mosaic.

• Developing public programs, especially after hours tours, during which there are multi-disciplinary events and performances. I particularly like the idea of 'insomniac tours' led by DMA's director Bonnie Pitman, and bedtime stories for the younger visitors.

I am particularly interested in where smartphone use is going in museum and gallery interpretation and will be blogging more about this shortly. Meanwhile the lessons from DMA's success are surely a) get to know your audience well and b) tailor your offering (within reason) to what they want, remembering that it will not be one size fits all.

Julian Bickersteth
Managing Director
internationalconservationservices

3 comments:

  1. Dallas wildflower artist Chapman Kelley directly challenged Pitman's book premise when in 2010 he asked her to remove his award-winning painting Sand Dune (1960) from a DMA 'Coastlines' exhibit because she allowed some unauthorized acoustics to be added to it. Kelley said his personality and moral rights were violated by her 'added on' sound effects, as codified under a section of U.S. copyright law called the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990. Art historian Sam Blain analyzed this artists' rights issue recently in his Dallas Art History blog here: http://www.dallasarthistory.com/

    John Viramontes - Council for Artists' Rights

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  2. Bonnie Pitman's concept is not new. In 1993 former Metropolitan Museum of Art director Thomas Hoving authored "Making the Mummies Dance : Inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art" about his experience and after being urged by a New York City mayor to make the Met more attractive to the public. In Russell Lynes 1973 book "Good old Modern;: An intimate portrait of the Museum of Modern Art" Lynes wrote about long time MoMA director and expert exhibit installer Rene d'Harnoncourt, who said "Who comes first, the
    installer or the guy who's being installed?...A museum director shouldn't add to a work of art, he must not prostitute the whole thing and finally make a peepshow of it....If some museum directors like to do that sort of thing, let them use eggs, not works of
    art." Another example can be found in editor Brian O'Doherty's 1972 book "Museums in Crisis." Bryan Robertson wrote a chapter for it entitled "The Museum and the Democratic Fallacy" and says "...the public, conditioned by the strenuous and massively simple slogans of advertising and the super-realistic giantism of cinemascope, now expects to find a commensurate spectacle at the museum and is dismayed not to find some semblance of showbiz glitter in the permanent collections as well as temporary installations. But it is absurd that the size of an audience should take precedence over what happens to visitors inside a museum. Numbers may relate to a democracy but not to art." Finally, in Harold Rosenberg's 1983 book "Art on the Edge: Creators and Situations" chapters 25 and 26 zero in on what has become of the art world in the U.S., essentially saying the artist had been demoted, that what art critics had to say about art had become more important than either the artist or the work itself. Dallas wildflower artist Chapman Kelley directly challenged Pitman's book premise when in 2010 he asked her to remove his award-winning painting Sand Dune (1960) from a DMA 'Coastlines' exhibit because she allowed some unauthorized acoustics to be added to it. Kelley said his personality and moral rights were violated by her 'added on' sound effects, as codified under a section of U.S. copyright law called the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990. Art historian Sam Blain analyzed this artists' rights issue recently in his Dallas Art History blog here: http://www.dallasarthistory.com/ John Viramontes - Council for Artists' Rights

    ReplyDelete
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