Tabish Khan loves art and visits hundreds of exhibitions a year. In this column, he points out failings and occasionally positive attributes about the art world.
The UK is sweltering in a heatwave at the time of writing and that means museums or galleries have been half-jokingly enticing people in by mentioning they have air conditioning – even the Mayor of London is suggesting people seek out the nearest museum or library. Most galleries and museums need air conditioning to preserve their works, the fact it cools visitors is an added bonus.
Plus museums and galleries want people to come in and experience the art – sure your local Tesco has air conditioning, and it’s very tempting to camp out in the frozen foods aisle, but if you don’t start picking up items soon the staff will begin to suspect that you’re a shoplifter waiting for your moment.
Cafe’s too can be nice and cool but they expect you to buy something and not linger after finishing your coffee, while most museums and galleries are free to visit in the UK and some are so large you could spend a day in them.
Now regular gallery goers may be thinking what a ridiculous concept it is that air conditioning could be what finally gets those who have always been reluctant to head into galleries and museums. I must admit that even I dismissed it as a joke the first time I saw a gallery tweet about air con.
However, my journey into art started from spotting posters on the London Underground and wondering what it would be like to go to an exhibition – so the next FAD columnist could quite easily stumble into a gallery to take advantage of the air con and develop a love of, or a career in, art.
The well known theory in marketing is it takes around seven touchpoints to convince someone to act, it’s why household brands spend so much on advertising even though we all know they exist – and this could be the touchpoint for many to get into art. So if the promise of a cool environment is what gets someone to engage with art for the first time, re-engage with art after a hiatus or even get a regular gallery goer to dip into a new art space they hadn’t noticed, then we should all be here for it.
For more in this series, see my thoughts on art’s addiction to alcohol, why everyone is wrong about NFTs, poor press releases, experience as art, commercial as a dirty word, new galleries opening in London, video art at home, the Hockney roundel, art finds a way, art being free, Online exhibitions, Turner Prize 2019, artist’s request for feedback, the reaction to the shredded Banksy, #FriezeWeek, Blockchain hype, Finding art, Private views, Art itself, Appointment only exhibitions, Artificial Intelligence replacing artists, Everyone’s a Critic, Photo London, The Turner Prize, Art for art’s sake, Conceptual art is complicated, Condo, How performance art is presented in museums, Frieze week floozies, too much respect for an artist’s legacy, opinions not being welcome, an exhibition across three countries, tackling race and gender in art, artist-curators, art fair hype, top 5s and top 10s, our political art is terrible, gap left by Brian Sewell, how art never learned from the Simpsons, why artspeak won’t die, so-called reviews, bad reviews are bad for business, the $179m dollar headline, art fairs appealing to the masses, false opening hours, size matters and what’s wrong with video art.
Image copyright The National Gallery, London – and it’s air conditioned.