Different Digital Perspectives

Why would you want gallery visitors to be interacting with their phones while wandering through the gallery? Surely the idea is to fully experience the art that is hanging on the walls in front of them? Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria is taking a different approach by actively encouraging users to pull their phones out of their pockets and even plug in while moving through their spaces.


When it comes to classical forms of entertainment; ballet, theatre, opera, classical music and art, there are several companies that take on the common misconception that technology is the enemy. Phones didn’t exist when these works of art were created and widely acclaimed so why should the audience behaviour change. All part of a greater plan to keep these recital halls, art galleries and concert venues representative of the traditional environment.

But technology isn’t the only thing that has changed in this time. So has audience expectations. Our phones have become the go-to place to satisfy our curiosity for extra information. The main source of our entertainment. And an integrated addition to most real-life interactions with television shows encouraging viewers to tweet and YouTube performers pushing the ‘Share’ button to their audiences. So it would only be contradictory to try and remove these new entertainment carriers from the modern day entertainment scene.

This is a concept which NGV is embracing with their latest release the NGV guide!

The NGV guide is a new online platform where users can log in, save their favourite paintings, discover more information about a number of works in the catalogue, listen to celebrities from many industries discuss their highlight works and even receive recommendations based on the paintings that you like. They are essentially using this pocket-sized screen to add a second dimension onto the entertaining experience. Your curiosity is no longer confined to the small description panel beside a painting, it now has access to the entire internet.

But my favourite component isn’t the descriptions, or the recommendations (although that is pretty amazing!). My favourite part of this new development is the interaction with celebrities.

When I use the term celebrity, I’m not referring to the Kim Kardashians of the world. I’m referring to revered, influential or popular people in their respective fields. NGV has engaged a number of prominent Australians including Father Bob Maguire, comedian Tegan Higginbotham, NGV Deputy Directors, Art Curators, ceramicist Jessilla Rogers and even the frontman of critically acclaimed Australian band Regurgitator.

Each of these prominent figures has selected a couple of works from the gallery which really speak to them. Those few paintings at the top of their ‘Must See’ list when they bring people to the gallery. And now you can feel like their guest as they explain what inspires them about these works and what makes them special. The art curators and NGV Deputy Directors provide interesting discussions, however it is when you break away from the artistic mould with the non-NGV celebrities that this guide begins to act as a great interaction with new and different audiences. Audiences who are looking for more than the artistic explanation around the work. Something with a bit of comedy – or maybe even a musical work which has been devised from the feeling of a room (check out Quan Yeomans’ audio recordings!).

This opportunity to interact with the art via a second channel only adds another dimension for an audience which is already used to seeing art in a myriad of forms on their phone. But the real genius comes from the different perspectives they have captured. Different from your typical art professor and much more relatable to the average person who is lacking the classical artistic training. It’s the perfect match for this non-traditional medium and something which will start to create many lasting relationships with the art gallery for new consumers.