Art for our sake

How digital projects are making culture more accessible

by Mark Tungate , Adforum

In the past, museums and art galleries were daunting places. They were temples of culture that demanded to be taken seriously. Over the years, however, they have become more relaxed, with interactive displays and cafés that are destinations in their own right. The digital world has contributed to this softening by bringing people closer to art in ingenious ways.

In some cases, it has brought us closer to the artists themselves. When Edvard Munch died, both his paintings and his painting materials were donated to a museum in Oslo. The paintings are regularly exhibited – but the brushes remained hidden in an archive. Until Adobe digitised them and allowed users to

The Tate Britain in London has proved skilled at communicating the appeal of art to a new generation. During the campaign below, it didn’t show the artworks at all – just the stories behind them. The copy from Grey London was gripping; and readers were enthralled.

What if paintings could talk? In Brazil, Ogilvy teamed up with IBM’s Watson to create an app that allowed museum visitors to chat with artworks. This wasn’t about listening to an audio guide – it was about conversing with genius.

But what do you do when a museum is literally inaccessible – because it’s closed? That was the challenge facing the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade, which shut its doors more than ten years ago for “endless” renovations. A solution was found by teaming with local brands and, using augmented reality, turning their advertising spaces into the artworks locked inside the museum.

Similarly, in the run-up to the opening of the new branch of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, artworks from the museum were reproduced on roadside billboards. By tuning into the right radio station, drivers could even hear the stories behind the masterpieces as they approached.

Normally you’re not allowed to run your hands over the sculptures in museums – even if you’re blind. The National Gallery of Prague enabled visually impaired people to “touch” masterpieces for the very first time, using the magic of virtual reality. Those who took part in the project said it enabled them to “see” the beauty of the artworks.

If museums and galleries feel like lofty propositions, how about auction houses? How many of us would feel relaxed stepping into one, let alone bidding for a piece? In London, BBH brought a human touch to Christie’s auction house with a campaign focusing on the people behind it – and their “passion for inanimate objects”.

And finally, there’s this. Be warned – it’s a little surreal.