How can we transform exhibition collaborations?
This week on ArtEvolve we were joined by Bernadine Bröcker Wieder, co-Founder and CEO of Vastari, who spoke about developing a regional exhibition economy and why it’s so important for art institutions to focus on local audiences.
Exhibition content and organization is changing
With the global pandemic, we’ve heard about timed entries, social distancing, and exhibitions going online but another important aspect is that exhibitions are perhaps no longer able to travel internationally. As a result, many art institutions have been given pause to think about the cost of their exhibitions, not just in a monetary way but also in terms of carbon footprint and environmental sustainability.
Bernadine identified two areas that museums and galleries focus on to support their exhibitions:
- Ticket sales: requiring longer-term shows, especially if social distancing and limited visitor numbers per day must be taken into account.
- Sponsors: changing shows more frequently to attract and hold people’s attention. However international loans are difficult or simply not possible right now so institutions must come up with new ways to optimize their exhibition planning and hosting.
Planning regional exhibitions
The challenges brought on by the global pandemic have forced art institutions to completely rethink exhibitions. Coming up with new ways to get more ‘bang for their buck’ will be crucial if they are to survive, and even thrive, for years to come. But what might this look like in terms of planning local and regional exhibitions?
- The power of the permanent collection. It’s long overdue that permanent collections should be shown to the public more often. This is even more crucial when we consider that permanent collections are often steeped in the history and culture of a particular place in a way that outside exhibitions simply cannot achieve. Local audiences connect with specific, local pieces – so let them see them! (Take a look at last week’s webinar about preventative collection care for some great examples of museums doing this well).
- New approaches to ‘blockbuster’ shows. To target visitors that might only visit after seeing a feature in a magazine or newspaper, you need to find content that creates headlines. Art institutions have often relied on constantly changing blockbuster shows to keep audiences coming back, but a couple of star pieces can have the same effect, particularly if the exhibition focuses on getting visitors to engage more deeply.
- Telling stories that resonate with the culture and identity of a region. When coming up with new shows, the preferences of donors have perhaps been too much of a priority in the past. Now, we need to generate content that is relevant, topical, and timely to local and regional audiences. A good curator that has their finger on the pulse of what people care about and they want to see is key here.
- New ways of storytelling and engagement. How often have you visited a museum or gallery only to find little to no information about the background of an artwork? From the history of a piece to its current social context, there are so many stories to tell beyond the aesthetic form and museums should find ways to share them with visitors. With the help of new technologies (for example, audio guides connected to people’s smartphones) this needn’t be an expensive or time-consuming process.
- New collaborations. To plan a regional exhibition that is focused on a particular connection to the local area, curators can no longer rely on international contacts. They must seek out and nurture new connections in their area, promoting collaborations with local museums in the process.
- Partner with commercial entities. Local galleries and commercial spaces likely have pieces ideal for including in a regional exhibition. Approach them about developing a partnership that sees them become a lender for exhibitions.
Discovering new connections
As Bernadine pointed out, the most common way museums meet collectors is through friends. Informal relationships have been immensely important in facilitating lending, borrowing, and the organization of exhibitions but other networking opportunities do exist. Vastari democratizes this process, allowing those without personal connections the chance to connect with museums, galleries, curators, and other professionals in the art world. Museums can also use it to discover artists, artworks, and collectors in their local area they might not have otherwise been aware of.
A special thank you to our guest speaker Bernadine Bröcker Wieder, co-Founder and CEO of Vastari.