SFMOMA Families App Drives Away Gallery Fatigue

“When I’m walking around an art gallery, rooms full of paintings, after 15 or 20 minutes, I really am not thinking about the painting, I’m not connecting to them. Instead, I’m thinking about a cup of coffee that I desperately need to wake me up. I believe somebody put the painting on the wall because they think it is good enough to be there. But I don’t see it. I feel unhappy and guilt about my stupidity.”  Said Tracy Chevalierin her TED speech about “Finding the story inside the painting” How many of you also suffer from gallery fatigue? I guess most of us will put up our hands. For a gallery, it is terrible to let your audience leave with such bad experience. How can we attract an audience whose lack of knowledge of art history and artist background reduces their passion for the art works? I want to share with you an amazing app created by SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) called “SFMOMA Families”. This app creates a way to connect with audience by encouraging them to dig up some information about paintings according to their own experiences. There are three interesting steps to the app:

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1)      Collect your team.

2)      Let your partners guess the Secret Color on screen according to the artwork you pick up. The app will give you a color on the screen, then, you are asked to choose a picture around that fits best to the given color. For instance, if you are a Chinese audience, you may be likely to choose a painting with a sad theme when the given color is white. However, most of your western partners won’t get the right answer because white is always related to happy things like sunshine or wedding in western culture. Interestingly, you will discover how people with various cultural backgrounds may appreciate a painting in different ways. That’s the charm of art.

3)      Everyone picks up an artwork according to a sound given by the app. You will find everyone may choose a different painting. The exciting part comes from “why your choices are so different”.  We will discover how people think differently about each artwork.

This is an interesting app, and still can be improved to make it more appealing to both the gallery and the audience:

  1. Add a part like “Tell us a story from your imagination about the painting then, accumulate all of the stories told by the audience in an exhibition into the gallery’s database.  As we analyze people’s thinking about each painting, we can detect the way most people may appreciate a painting. The marketers can suggest what kind of information could be provided to help the audience most enjoy their experience in an exhibition.
  2. Strengthen the social part of the app. We are used to visiting a museum alone or with familiar friends. Sometimes we find these friends don’t have the passion for the art like we do. We can hardly get exciting feedback from them. By adding a social component, we can easily find new friends who love art as we do. The common topics we could have will cheer us up!
  3. Get artists into the app . It’s important to involve artists in the art community. However, thte reality is that the only chance for an audience to talk with the artists may be at the opening party. Few channels are now available for artists to get information from people, not critics, about their experience with the artworks. For artists, this approach is meaningful as well. If an artist learns how people’s imaginations are inspired by his artworks, he will find his job to be valuable.

Why would an audience choose this app? People will find different stories about a painting from other people, rather than only from curators. These stories will open their horizons about art. The words on the paper taped on the wall beside the paintings are sometimes complicated, or even boring to the audience. Different stories told by ordinary people will increase their interests towards art and inspire them to think about artwork in a more innovative way. Sometimes a story told by a child will easily move you rather than by a story told by a curator. People will gradually find visiting a gallery an interesting experience when their stories or imagination are shared with others and when they can get feedback from artists more easily. This would finally improve the relationship between the organization and its community.