Everyone loves a good art argument. Whether it’s the evergreen ‘how can you call that art?’ or an impassioned debate on the use of chiaroscuro, at the Royal Academy, we love the fact that an exhibition or event can just be the starting-off point for hours of discussion. This year, we have expanded the digital team to include a Social Media and Content Manager, to help us tell more stories, engage better with our audiences and the wider art world, and encourage more free, animated and original debate.
Alongside championing the appreciation and practise of art, encouraging debate is one of the RA’s core objectives – and a recent example of our commitment to that is our Allen Jones exhibition. While some people were inspired by the colours, shapes and sexuality of these pop art paintings and sculpture, others found them deeply offensive and didn’t hesitate to share that view across social media.
We were glad they did. To engage with only the positive comments – though it would make us feel better about ourselves – would undermine the point of doing the exhibition, itself an exchange of ideas. We’re proud to support and inspire a conversation of that intensity, and we did it in a number of ways.
- In our Twitter tour of the exhibition, we raised these controversial issues on sexism.
- Through blogs on our website and questions across Twitter and Facebook, we actively invited opinion – and treated every engaged response as equally valuable. https://storify.com/RoyalAcademy/allen-jones-ra-join-the-debate
- We commissioned voices from around the art and pop culture worlds to bring the debate alive on our blog: https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/allen-jones-when-pop-art-meets
- We took conversation from social media into our live events and back again. https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/three-views-on-allen-joness-chair
Accessible, imaginative storytelling
Pursuing a commitment to support the wider goal of art education and appreciation, we have been experimenting with social media’s storytelling possibilities.
To illuminate an illustration exhibition, we told the story of the book in tweets.
Our Rubens Twitter tour opened the exhibition up to a wider audience, including those who couldn’t physically come to the Royal Academy.
Looking outwards: reaching new audiences
To engage a new audience with the practise of art, we have put renewed efforts into our Instagram account – and seen our followers grow by 36k since December. This #Rubensreveal was a recent project to tell the story of an important painting.
As part of our ambition to be outward-looking in our approach, we have also recently initiated and taken part in a number of cross-institution social media collaborations.
A ‘relay Twitter trail’ on Joshua Reynolds, with the Wallace Collection, National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery:
An ‘In Rubens’s Footsteps’ Twitter tour with Historic Royal Palaces: