10/02/2011 - 00:00

Carboni refines art of marketing

10/02/2011 - 00:00

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WITH the Picassos and Magrittes safely home in Venice, Art Gallery of Western Australia director Stefano Carboni is breathing a sigh of relief that the Peggy Guggenheim exhibition went smoothly from beginning to end.

Carboni refines art of marketing

WITH the Picassos and Magrittes safely home in Venice, Art Gallery of Western Australia director Stefano Carboni is breathing a sigh of relief that the Peggy Guggenheim exhibition went smoothly from beginning to end.

The question remains, though, was it a success?

According to Mr Carboni, himself a native of Venice, measuring the success of the Peggy Guggenheim exhibition – the first in a series of five Great Collections of the World shows – cannot be gauged simply in terms of its financial performance.

“You measure success in different ways; one is, did we balance the budget and did we sell enough tickets to make sure we can continue?” Mr Carboni said.

“The answer is, very close to that.”

His nights may have been sleepless until the works were returned to Venice from their exclusive visit to Perth, but Mr Carboni said the flawless management of the exhibition – from the initial discussions, signing the contract and returning the works – had helped put the state gallery on the world map.

“The Peggy Guggenheim foundation now knows that the Art Gallery of Western Australia is a good partner; that we are professional, that we have kept up with every expectation that they had, and now they will become great ambassadors for us,” Mr Carboni said.

“Now in Venice and New York they will talk about the Art Gallery of Western Australia as a great partner, and that is a fantastic measure of success, I think.”

But the educational impact the abstract and surrealist exhibition had on its 55,000 visitors was the most pleasing aspect, he said.

Mr Carboni was impressed with the amount of time visitors spent at the exhibition, as well as their deeper interaction by way of guided tours and audio guides

“The average time they spent in front of every work, the number of audio guides that were taken and tours that people attended means they spent and learned about the individual works much more than the average exhibition,” he said.

“That to me is a great success. It means they had a better educational experience. From the point of view of customer satisfaction and reaction, once we got them to the exhibition, that is probably the best measure of success as far as I am concerned.”

Initially, getting people through the door was difficult, with a trickle of interest at the beginning of the three-month-long exhibition last October – something Mr Carboni puts down to a lack of urgency in the viewing public.

Initially there was a high percentage of visitors coming to the exhibition from outside Perth – Mr Carboni estimates about a quarter in the first month – with Perth-based visitors increasing as the exhibition wound up at the end of January.

So if Picasso can’t make people move, what will?

Halfway through the exhibition, Mr Carboni and the team of marketers at the gallery decided to tweak the advertising.

In December they removed the exhibition’s closing date from the advertising, trimmed down the written content and instead used more images of the famous works.

Mr Carboni said the short lead-time (four months) for marketing the exhibition could have hindered its advertising effectiveness.

The gallery will have nine months to spruik the second show in the series – Princely Treasures: European Masterpieces 1600-1800 – and Mr Carboni said this longer lead time, coupled with the more accessible artwork, would attract greater numbers when it opens in September.

“I might be too optimistic, but I do expect larger numbers to the next exhibition,” Mr Carboni said.

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