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3 lessons from a weekend artoholic

Lindsay Herbert Head of Digital (Global)

This weekend was a heavy one. I meant to stop after just one on Saturday at the Tate Britain at the Schwitters exhibit, but before I knew it, I was binging on Lichtenstein and 'A Bigger Splash' at the Tate Modern, followed by blowing the last of my mind on Sunday at the jaw-dropping Russian exhibitions at the Saatchi Gallery.

To try and redeem myself this Monday morning, bleary eyed and sore, I've collected three thoughts that relate well to my work as Head of Digital Marketing that I hope will also be a help to others. Two of the thoughts have a strong digital connection, whilst the last is just a general thought I need to remind myself of more often.

1) Untitled. (Really?)

First, knowing what a picture is about doesn't just help to understand it, it can give you an appreciation of its value. Cartoon-like tattoos of chains and sad, busty women on moustached men, looking not unlike aged portraits of Shoreditch hipsters in the Saatchi Gallery, took on unsettling new meaning when the captions revealed them to be the gang tattoos of lifelong Russian criminals. Or at the Lichtenstein exhibition where the captions showed just how many of the paintings were borrowed from private collections - meaning that despite their iconic status and societal value, when the exhibitions ends we'll likely never get to lay eyes on many of these famous works again.

It made me think back to my work on the web and the time it takes to load those big carousel banners many brands are so fond of (or at least, fond of the in-fighting they often resolve internally), and it's worth thinking of the potential value added when making the call on whether to include space in the carousel template for that precious, value-adding editable text.

2) Yours sincerely, the Tate Modern

My second thought relates to the DREAM Destinations seminar series we're currently running (next stop, Edinburgh!) and how attractions like galleries can (and are) using technology to forge closer connections with their visitors, and bridge the time between in-person visits.

The moment I scanned my membership card at the Tate Modern, an email popped into my Hotmail account asking what I thought of the Lichtenstein exhibit. Whilst I thought the wording could have been a little less praise soliciting ('Looking at the comments so far, it's clear that people have enjoyed...') I was still impressed, first by the efficiency and then by the fact they thought to ask at all.

It's also noteworthy though that it was my second visit to the exhibition (yes, I'm really getting my money's worth out of my membership!) and the second time receiving the same email. Should the second email have been different and recognized me as a repeat visitor? In an ideal world (where the Tate gets the unlimited marketing resource and advanced CRM it deserves), yes, but it did prompt me to wonder what other ways the Tate could have bridged the virtual and real life gap.

For example, I was disappointed when my favourite paintings weren't available for sale as prints at each of the galleries I'd visited - could I have been asked to vote online for which additional prints should be procured for their online shop? Could QR codes have been added to the paintings so scanning saved them to a list of favourites that I could then share and refer to later (rather than have to surreptitiously snap photos of the captions for my own un-shareable records)?

One thing I will say, even though I didn't click through on either email from the Tate, was that I was touched to see the curator's name pop up in my inbox. It was a sign they are keeping track of my interactions with them in a meaningful way - one that should later result in fewer 'email all' messages down the road - but more importantly, tells me my visit is helping them shape future visits for everyone.

3) Art: The brain’s drain cleaner!

The last thing I'll mention is how standing for hours in four different galleries this weekend, overloading my brain with creativity and introspection, is making me oddly eager to get stuck back in at work this snowy Monday morning. I don't know how some of the most impressive things I saw (like a giant painting at Saatchi gallery that from far away looks opulent and intricately detailed, but close up is actually made from systematically torn and paint-soiled cardboard sheets) are going to factor into the projects I'm working on, but the feeling in my head right now is a bit like the one you get right before a great idea pops in.

Not a new revelation I suppose, but a good reminder as to why we should all reboot our brains and trade staring at pixels for paint strokes whenever we get the chance.