Opinions

Art events: Planning for popularity

A varied, experiential approach can boost visitor numbers, says Pico’s Vince Ota.

Once the preserve of relatively narrow audiences of dedicated connoisseurs and collectors, the art business and art events are now reinventing themselves – and reaching out via social media – for a much wider appeal. Collecting art is bigger, more popular and accessible than it’s been in decades.

This shift has been consequential for event planners too. Nearly every aspect of the art event, from lead-up to location to exhibition programme, has been reconsidered to attract and engage a mass audience, increase visitor numbers and boost the ROI.

Converting the crowd from passive to active

Obviously, planning now consists of more than presenting a curated collection of paintings. To bring in and constantly replenish a bigger audience, the event needs to engage people on an emotional level. The goal is to build a participatory, unique and sharable experience that tells a story about the art in dynamic new ways.

 

A great example of this is TRANSPORTA, a new activation at this year’s i Light Singapore – Bicentennial Edition, which told the story of the universe through a series of interactive portals.

The multimedia installation, which attracted more than 13,000 visitors, responded to visitors’ movements as information was conveyed via lights, sounds, projections and sensations.

Making big ideas relatable

Another, simpler approach to popularising what might be considered an ‘elitist’ subject is demonstrated by the ‘Ideas Program’ of the Taipei Dangdai event at the Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center.

A forum for international thinkers from the realms of archaeology, art history, science and technology, the Ideas Program makes its topics accessible by contextualising them with contemporary issues familiar to a broad audience. Audience members were also encouraged to join in further discussions.

Notably, Taipei Dangdai’s target audience included millennials and children, with guided tours and activities specially designed to engage younger audiences in the arts. As well as being educational, the tours allowed participants to share their art experiences via live streaming on Facebook. Workshop activities, meanwhile, used augmented reality to animate children’s doodles and stir their artistic imaginations.

Transporta activation in Singapore

A site to remember

In many cases, a non-stereotypical venue can greatly amplify an art event’s exposure across a wide audience. Staging an event in a public area, shopping centre or even a home can physically bring it into the heart of a community and arouse curiosity. Where the usual gallery, showroom, museum or dedicated venue requires people to go out of their way to attend, executing in public and commercial areas brings an atypical experience to a typical lifestyle space.

In this respect, services like ArtsUp can be invaluable to event planners. Working like an ‘Airbnb’ for venues, they connect planners with hosts offering everything from homes to shops to lighthouses for use as event venues.

Brands connecting fans

Bring a brand into an event, and their own audience will follow. Brand values that resonate with an event’s raison d’être can add value and also contribute to event content; adding yet another layer of engagement and experience.

A prominent example of this dynamic is Swiss luxury skincare brand La Prairie’s collaboration with South Korean artist Chul-Hyun Ahn. Ahn is famed for using light as a medium, and in a case of cross-inspiration, he created new works for Art Basel Hong Kong 2019 influenced by La Prairie’s ‘White Caviar’ collection.

Brand synergy also played a prominent role at Hong Kong’s Art Central 2019 event. Here, candle and fragrance brand diptyque created an exhibition booth with paintings and multi-sensory experiences that supported their values of quality and excellence while retelling the story behind their unique aromas.

A varied, experiential approach to planning can succeed in broadening audiences and boosting visitor numbers at art events, but it is important not to diversify the experience to the point of diluting the event’s core purpose. Even when thinking out of the box, event planners must keep the intention of the art event close to their hearts.

Vince Ota is Executive Creative Director, Global at Pico.