This week I have properly embraced, for the first time, a profoundly significant aspect of Dulwich Picture Gallery office culture.
I have caught the Guardian crossword bug. The ravages of this addiction can be daily experienced in the office kitchen; some members of the team race, with a palpable bloodlust, to be the first to un-jumble the anagram at 2-down, whilst others join in convivial cartels to muddle out a five-letter word for “art gallery”*. This is perhaps an unlikely way to start my account of an otherwise nose-to-the-grindstone week, but whilst the summer weather has taken a volatile turn, precluding picnic lunches in the grounds, an uplifting team spirit reigns indoors regardless.
In this, my fifth week at Dulwich, I polished off a couple of the longer term projects which I was charged with upon my arrival. Most significant of these was the Thinking Big audit which I described in my last post. Pitiable as it may be to admit, I feel a certain inflated pride in having triumphed over these spreadsheets in the last few days. I’m also pleased to have got the Gallery’s ArtStack profile up and running, which I will plug again shamelessly – http://theartstack.com/users/signup/1DulwichPictureGallery. Having spent some time exploring the site and testing its limits, I’m increasingly excited about the opportunity we have to place the Dulwich Collection at the heart of this new art-viewing platform whilst it’s still in its formative stages. My challenge for the next few weeks is to upload digital versions of the Gallery’s entire Collection and to recreate virtually the Gallery’s recent exhibitions – no mean feat when we’re talking about over 600 artworks and dozens of shows.
And whilst I’m on the subject of social media (this is marketing in 2013 after all!) The other significant project which has consumed my time of late has been developing the Gallery’s Huntzz scavenger-hunt. Visitors will download a 25 item hunt to their smartphones or tablet computers which, with a series of cryptic clues, will lead them around the Gallery’s lesser-trod corners, unveiling fascinating, previously undiscovered depths in both the Collection’s masterpieces and its hidden gems. Where once mobile technology could be considered a threat to the immersive environment of an art gallery**, in my opinion, this app is a brilliant example of the way in which, technologically-aided, we can have a more engaging experience in galleries. We’ll be interactively encouraged to discover and contemplate the importance of, for example, the hidden carrot in The Chaff-cutters for ourselves.
I recently saw Brian Sewell in a fascinating, career-spanning interview (at the York Festival of Ideas), during which he stirringly promoted “proper viewing” of paintings – we must dissect, ponder, reconstruct and transport ourselves into the artists’ minds. I’m not sure he was referring directly to either Huntzz or ArtStack, but following my week of social media curation, in my opinion these are the kind of tools which will rejuvenate the viewing process, especially for younger Gallery visitors. At the very least, I have become significantly better acquainted with the Collection, and spent a frustrating yet ultimately fruitful 5 minutes trying to find the carrot!
*“salon”, if you were wondering
** I don’t know about you, but I always feel monstrously guilty unless my phone is firmly silenced in a gallery. Obviously I don’t really mind if other people use their phones, and in fact prefer a bustling gallery to a silenced one. But I nonetheless tremble irrationally for fear of interrupting the hushed, brush-stroke-admiring reverie of some more soulful art-aficionado than myself.