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Should Digital Change the Way We Interact with Art?

For a while now, digital has changed the way we interact with the world.

Sure – this has been embraced by many brands, especially B2C, where social platforms like Instagram and the rise of influencer marketing have been a game-changer.

But what happens when there is a clash between a brand’s need to attract and engage new audiences and its need to protect the traditional format so intrinsic to its history and foundation?

These questions came to mind when reading an excellent article by David Taylor – ‘Can orchestras follow art museums and embrace “Instagram Traps”?’.

So I’m referring specifically here to establishments like art galleries, museums and orchestras, as they navigate their way through the digital transformation maze.

Let’s just take the example of art, should it only be experienced in the real world? Should our smartphones stay in our pockets? Or should we allow the audience to become part of the art itself, to extend the narrative beyond the walls of the gallery? Should we help them foster their own individual experience?

This debate isn’t new, and there are clear commercial benefits to making exhibitions more interactive and accessible to a broader audience base through digital; “The exhibit “Wonder” helped break the Renwick Gallery’s yearly attendance record in just six weeks.

But emerging from the pandemic this discussion feels more poignant… So what can we do about it?

Should we protect the prestigious integrity of our artistic establishments?

Or do we need to find a way to broaden our horizons and do both?

Perhaps the prosperous future of cultural and artistic brands depends on it…

Some thoughts from the arts and culture community:

“My current thought process is: at what point is art and music non-commercial? Is it when it is free to see or hear? These days the line is blurred and so do we need to view everything we do through a commercial lens?”

Jocelyn Lightfoot, Managing Director at London Chamber Orchestra.

“Oh INTERESTING. I think the key here is adaptation, not just in a progressive sense of the word, but in our behaviours. Different experiences command different behaviours so we must adapt. This keeps each experience unique…a hyper individual experience. Respecting the intentions of the artist is also key, to facilitate an experience in the way in which they intended…adapt…we shouldn’t just do because we always have done, nor should we adopt just because we can…adaption, hyper individual, per experience…ooooh interesting!”

Katie Lineker, Marketing Manager at De La Warr Pavilion.

“This is a really interesting debate, Joe – thanks for sharing! I personally think there’s room (within classical music, at least) for both. Concepts like the Aurora Orchestra example in David’s article are brilliant and can be really engaging both in person and when shared online – the benefit here being that the audience are wandering as you would in a museum, and if you get stuck behind someone and their phone screen, you can simply move. That’s not the case in the concert hall, and as someone who gets easily distracted I even welcome visits to concert halls and theatres where the option of doom scrolling is taken away from me!”

Siena Linton, On Air Content Editor at Classic FM.

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Article photo by Ian Dooley.