Monday, November 12, 2007

The "Bilbao Side Effect"

Just a brief follow-up to my blogpost from last week,Steven Winn has written in the San Francisco Chronicle about the "Bilbao Side Effect." He describes the phenomenon as follows:

To a greater degree than we may recognize at first, and for longer than we expect, new museums are an awful lot about themselves and less about what's inside... By virtue of their own notoriety and splashy drawing power, these high-profile houses have a way of obscuring their presumptive prime function: of displaying art in the most felicitous and revealing ways possible. People come to see the building, in other words, and regard the contents as a secondary concern.

He blames the Bilbao Side Effect for why newly (re)designed museum buildings see such initial success and then start to slump until visitors start to see the reason for visiting as being about the museum itself and not about the grand, new architecture. I don't disagree with him, and this is why I emphasized in my blogpost that it is crucial to invest heavily in marketing the new museum and to establish a unique brand that is not solely centered on the architecture.

But he also makes an interesting point that, especially with some of these architecturally-stunning museum buildings, it can take visitors awhile to warm up to the actual experience of viewing art in the new museums and to feel at home. Again, that is why I am so pleased that sneak-preview visitors to the new DIA have described it as "inviting."

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