“Usually, the ‘interactive’ part of a museum experience is actually pretty passive. I love how this app puts the viewers in a much more active position by inviting them to add their own interpretations to surreal subject matters.” —juror Natalie Lam
“Museums don’t typically allow their visitors to get involved in the exhibits, but channeling Magritte’s desire to create conversation honors both the artist and museum visitors. This app enables users to express their unique voice for the first time—in lieu of simply listening to the usual museum experts.” —juror Megan Meeker
Overview: Just as the surreal artist René Magritte upended viewers’ notions of a pipe, for its new Magritte exhibition, the Art Institute of Chicago expanded museumgoers’ ideas of what an art exhibit can be. The Unthink Magritte app was created to reintroduce the well-known artist to a new audience of younger, more tech-savvy art lovers, breaking down the barriers between the art and the audience in the process. By using their smartphone, visitors could create and share their own interpretations of Magritte’s work through text, audio and pictures.
•The best audience contributions became part of the official museum tour.
•The project took six weeks to produce.
•All work was done within Leo Burnett Chicago.
Comments by Pete Lefebvre:
Was the project part of a larger promotional campaign? “The app was part of a larger Unthink Magritte campaign that included print, out of home, stunts, digital and social media. The idea behind the campaign was to encourage people to experience Magritte’s art and the art exhibit itself in a new, more participatory way.”
Is the audience you were targeting particularly hard to reach? “We were targeting a younger, more technologically savvy audience. These people aren’t that hard to reach, but, at the same time, the museum doesn’t often target them specifically. The trick was to keep the museum’s voice and behavior authentic, but adapt it for a group who might not be familiar with the museum.”
What was the most challenging aspect of the project? “The Art Institute of Chicago is a civic institution with a very limited budget. This was a big project with no money—everything that needed to be done, our team had to do itself. But these realities only made the project more rewarding, allowing everyone to stretch their skills. And given that advertising has been described as art in the service of commerce, it was a welcome opportunity to put commerce in the service of art.”