How do you create a truly engaging art exhibition? This was the central question that creators of the ART BEEKN project set out to solve for the AF Gallery, an urban-contemporary gallery in the heart of Cologne, Germany.
The project drew inspiration from the idea that visiting an art gallery often resembles window shopping. Visitors look at a piece of art but don’t quite understand it. Although an introductory placard next to that piece may tell us the title and the name of the artist, we sometimes fail to comprehend its history and meaning. What was the artist’s state of mind when painting this picture? What was their earlier work, and how does it influence this piece?
Beacons were the ideal solution to turn this one-sided experience into a multi-dimensional one. Estimote Beacons are placed next to each piece of art by international urban artists including Brandon Boyd (lead vocalist of the American rock band Incubus), Maya Hayuk (USA), Will Barras (UK), Raymond Lemstra (NL). As visitors approach key points in the gallery, the ART BEEKN app delivers in-depth information to their mobile device. Tapping an icon on the app screen unlocks content such as artist biographies and commentary, and videos depicting the artistic process. Visitors using the app can also leave comments about the artwork and revisit exhibition content at any time. Since its launch in October 2014, the iBeacon Art Gallery has attracted more than 3,000 visitors!
The clean and modern design made it easy to discover the "beacon indicators" and helped to explore the exhibition without being pushy. We got a lot of positive response and the technology opened up a totally new access to experience the different artwork - commented Nadine Bartz, art director of the project, adding that all the attendants of the exhibition were very interested in the technology and the app.
What about the technology itself? Omid Hashemi, the leading developer of the project, explained the challenges of implementing beacons in art space, brimming with visitors:
Since the artwork was very close to one another, we had to find a solution to identify which piece of art the user is viewing to show the correct content. We solved it by calculating averages of the received signals and took the one with the smallest distance - but also had to change our beacon setup in the exhibition room. Another challenge was to make the beacons work in a room full of people so that all devices could receive the beacon signals. Our solution was to install the beacons on the ceiling. This way we had no interference.
The project was not only a huge hit with visitors but also resulted in unanimously positive press reviews and tremendous social media buzz, proving that the concept of an iBeacon gallery may indeed turn out to be the future of art exhibitions.