Art on the streets

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I have recently thinking about how cultural institutions attempt to make their collections relevant to the general public. Being in the field I am fascinated with how people consume a museum experience. Generally, the term ‘innovative’ is batted around museum staff meetings without a clear definition; and more generally, the ‘innovative’ ideas either diffuse the actual power of the objects in question or are remarkably behind the times. Yet, in one recent instance, a somewhat original notion actually sprouted from the hallowed halls.

In London, The National Gallery has brought some of it’s the collection to the streets (in the form of excellent reproductions), dotting the landscape with well placed paintings of note. For example, Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” hangs outside a coffee shop in Soho. Each of the paintings is accompanied by a spiced up label, transferring the museum experience to the cities street scape. While museum folk champion the ability of objects to speak for themselves, it was refreshing that a marketing campaign would allow for that. Having people interact with the art on their own terms, the National Gallery actually piques interest via a sense of discovery, rather than a packaged experience.

Making a nation’s public collection explicitly public, apart from navigating new territory, is an exciting notion. Some may argue that the encounter lacks authenticity; People are, after all, viewing reproductions. But, that an aesthetic experience combined with expert commentary is retained as the paintings find new life, the way people consume these objects on the road is not vastly different from on the walls of the museum. It simply creates a more intriguing dialogue between viewer and painting.

Pictures of the campaign in action can be seen at the link below:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/gallery/2007/jun/12/art.artnews?picture=330015567


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