28 January 2016 | MOF Team
At Matter Of Form, we love researching potential areas for disruption - nothing is more enjoyable to us than looking at an industry with a fresh pair of eyes, and developing a vision of how better service design can enhance the consumer experience.
After our work last year, focussed on designing a better banking experience, we decided to set our minds to re-imagining the gallery of the future. We already work in the sector (with the Tate on innovation strategy, and with the Affordable Arts Fair on an exciting new commerce venture), so collectively our heads were very much in the right space.
But the decision to explore this further arose during a recent trip to Florence, where I found myself incredibly frustrated by my experience at the Uffizi. The placards were unhelpful, focussed more on describing history of ownership, rather than in providing a deeper explanation of subject matter.
Typically, when I visit galleries, I have a tendency to photograph placards of art that holds my interest, with an eye to remembering particularly inspiring artists to research later. Frankly, this seems archaic.
The appreciation of all forms of art is affected by contextual understanding. While technology has democratised access to all forms of art, it has only recently started marrying the physical experience and its context.
iTunes disseminated the narrative of an album into a a set of individual songs: Some of my favourite tunes were ‘intros’ - sadly a title no longer robust enough to stand the test of search. But when Apple recently released Connect, it served as a medium through which to bring a little part of the album experience back to the appreciation of music, featuring behind the scenes footage, artist scribblings, musings and social commentary served on the side. Surely some of these themes could be applied to the the gallery experience?
The fundamental nature of how art is consumed is changing dramatically. The appreciation of art will always be affected by an individuals’ personal emotional response to the context of its author and culture.
On this thought-starter, we’re just kicking off the second part of our ‘Re-Imagination’ series. We’re going to design a more engaging experience that benefits both visitor and institution, through digital mediums that are less limiting than a placard or audioguide.
We see the future gallery including proximity sensor enabled art, that overlays further information on smartphones. A wiki that encourages sharing and contribution of contextual information, encouraging a greater depth of discovery. ‘Themed’ journeys through physical galleries will enable audiences to view art through the lens that most interests them: This could be a bespoke journey through the gallery influenced by a history of how the art has changed hands; it might be based on the usage of certain mediums. Or perhaps more simply, one based on interesting background details that depict social themes of an era.
Users’ should be able to favourite artists as information pops up on their phone, play-listing work they would like to research later. And all of this data could be used to curate and recommend exhibitions for the user in the future, while galleries can benefit from advantages in commerce recommendations across merchandise and print.
The outcome of this enhanced sense of context will change the manner in which art is created: It was once a medium through which to describe an event or circumstance; later its primary purpose became less descriptive, more emotive. Increasingly, it is moving to the experiential, serving as a singular point through which to focus the senses - a final endpoint in a journey that begins before the gallery, and stays with a visitor long after leaving.