Managing Director Evelio Acevedo on How the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum is Adapting to a Digital World
While art lovers are waiting for the day they can return to museums, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum has been hard at work finding ways to share its unparalled collection with the world. Here, its managing director talks about the process of digitizing its priceless art and engaging events.
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum houses one of the most important painting collections assembled in the 20th century. Although the collection was originally owned by the Thyssen-Bornemisza family, it became part of the Spanish heritage in 1993, just one year after the museum opened in Madrid.
Dürer, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Monet, Degas, Kandinsky, O'Keeffe, Dalí, Rothko; these are just some of the names in the impressive list of grand masters that make up the museum's collection. This array of works is a living textbook of Western art from the 13th to the 20th centuries, highlighting the exquisite taste of just two generations of collectors.
Since 2013, Mastercard Mondays have provided free entry to the Thyssen's permanent collection on Mondays year-round, bringing its paintings and sculptures even closer to the public. Mastercard cardholders enjoy additional museum benefits such as discounts and Priceless experiences. Mastercard Mondays have been postponed during COVD-19, but the museum has been busy designing new experiences for art enthusiasts to enjoy from home.
Managing Director Evelio Acevedo talks about how the new digitization process of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum makes these virtual events possible.
The museum began its digitalization process before the pandemic. How did your strategy change during lockdown, and how did that head start help you?
Our existing priority of developing a combined online and offline museum model meant that during the lockdown, were able to benefit from a large amount of digital content. It ranged from digitizing all the works in the permanent collection to creating virtual ways to experience our activities (educational workshops, concerts, and more). So when the museum had to close, we had a defined strategy, action plan, and goals. Only three months have passed, but we have a wide range of experience that allows us to adapt those plans and address the reality of our museumgoers in a better way.
How did you shape the museum's digital content during the months when the galleries were closed?
We set up a digital committee with members from across the organization and established a plan to evaluate content, publicity, and scheduling. Every day we update and re-focus that content to account for the diversity of our audience. Our most regular users are between ages 25 and 44 (43%), with a good response from young people (10% under age 24). The most followed content has related to the permanent collection, educational activities, and temporary exhibitions.
What role have the museum's partners played during this time?
It's been essential, including psychologically, to be able to count on the support and presence of our collaborating companies and sponsors. With Mastercard, for example, we adapted the Mastercard Mondays programme by producing a dozen videos in which museum staff (curators, educators, guides, etc.) told stories and revealed hidden aspects of some of the principal works in the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection. These videos were made available to Mastercard cardholders for a period and were then uploaded with free access for all users. The digital gaze on works of art is a different experience. There's no substitute for a real, physical visit, but online resources provide a great complement.
How to you transcend the physical space of the museum's galleries in order to offer attractive, high quality digital content?
It's really fascinating. Technology allows us to access a great deal of information on the work, the artist and the period when it was created. All this translates into a multitude of very interesting stories and details that transport us to the time of its creation. The painting is the best means of communication available to artists for expressing what is happening around them and how they experience it. It's a great lesson about history, values, and humanity.
We have a collection of art that encompasses the history of Western civilization over eight centuries. Imagine that source of knowledge about humankind: love and disappointments, religions and mythologies, heroes and villains, customs, identity, and power. Taking full advantage of technology is the best way to help better our world and improve opportunities for everyone.