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Digital disruption in Milan contemporary art scene: Bubbles at the Hangar Bicocca

The evolution of museums: becoming digital requires an integrated approach and a shared effort – in collaboration with Studio Leftloft

Bubbles at Pirelli Hangar Bicocca

Pirelli Hangar Bicocca’s website has recently turned into a digital map with contents and insights about the exhibitions and cultural events held by the foundation thanks to Bubbles – a useful tool for visitors who want to organize or complete their visit, but also for researchers, students and art enthusiasts. Alessandro Bianchi, general manager of Pirelli Hangar Bicocca, claims that the idea of Bubbles came about during the first lockdown from the desire to gather all the digital material scattered among the foundation’s social media channels and website into one digital platform and widen the cultural offer of the institution. The layout of the website – designed by Studio Leftloft – ensures a fluent navigation across the bubbles, each of which contain textual contents, images or multimedia files. 

Museum Digital Transitioning

This transformation requires awareness by policy makers and managers of the need for a strong change in terms of content and ways in which art and culture are delivered to the public. In the survey conducted between the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 by the research institute of the Politecnico of Milan, it appears that only 24% of Italian cultural institutions have drawn up a digital innovation strategic plan. As well as systems and machinery, museums need competent people to facilitate the digital transition. Results of the research show that currently 51% of Italian museums and cultural organizations have no recourse to professionals, either external or internal, and only 12% of the remaining 39% have a dedicated team formed by several digital professionals. Despite the inability to take part in live cultural events and enjoy art in first person, people all over the world keep asking for a continuous flow of news and content related to art and cultural sectors in general. The advantages emerging from the adoption of digital technology in the arts are: enhance and broaden audience reach, also from a geographical point of view as digital technology allow cultural organizations to reach new markets, gain additional data and insights about audiences and their consumption behaviors, help artistic communities to connect and interact with another, and diversify the cultural offer disseminating creative works through new formats. 

A Fluid Digital Space

The new design is characterized by ductile and rounded lines and a graphic representation composed of soft shapes, shadows and overlapping planes. In this fluid digital space with blurred borders, users can choose to stay on the surface floating from one bubble to another, or dive deep into specific topics or digital experiences. The Bubbles are divided into five categories: Watch, dedicated to multimedia content, Listen, for audio content such as artists’ playlists, Read where users can benefit from several in-depth texts, Connect, to source information and news about the contemporary art world, and Experience, by which users can take part in digital live events and curatorial talks. Articles, catalogues and interviews allow users to investigate a variety of themes related to the art world and explore Pirelli Hangar Bicocca’s exhibitions from a different perspective. The abundance of content and insights make pirellihangarbicocca.org a digital space where visitors can easily switch from one topic to another based on their interests and research purposes. 

Bubbles project, promoted by Pirelli HangarBicocca

Digital versus Physical

With Bubbles, Pirelli Hangar Bicocca aims at providing the audience with a dual experience both digital, on its new website, and real, in its physical spaces in Via Chiese, Milan. The project was conceived and developed with the objective of enriching the way contemporary art is shown and disseminated. By sharing high-quality content, Pirelli Hangar Bicocca intends to expand the institution’s cultural offer and make it available to the public. With the outbreak of Covid-19 museums all over the world had to find new ways to engage with their audiences. To do so, cultural institutions not only made existing resources accessible to users, such as archive material from previous exhibitions, but they also put in place digital activities and delivered new content through social media or digital platforms. Virtual tours, curatorial talks, online exhibitions and educational activities are some of the initiatives promoted by art organizations. Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, digital tools and content represented only a complement to the in-site experience, but with the closure of cultural spaces digital technology has proved to be a tool for the cultural offer of public and private institutions. At the moment, the primary purpose of museums’ websites and digital channels is supporting in an active way the physical artistic experience. 

For a smother generation

Digital technologies enable a more efficient organization of collections, but also a smoother generation, analysis and exchange of information and data which can be used in several new contexts and for different educational purposes. First, the digital transition requires the implementation of a Digital IT Architecture, an open and interconnected structure based on artificial intelligence (A.I.) which provides an all-encompassing approach to the definition of the information system to be implemented. Second, the institution has to implement a strategic use which allows the collection of data and information about the experiences of consumers and the customization of the digital experience based on the customer’s preferences. When beginning an exhibition into a physical art museum or gallery, the visitor steps into a curated experience which leads them through a predetermined path. In digital experiences users have the possibility to explore a collection or other kinds of content relying solely on their personal interests, tastes and research purposes.

The digital revolution

It represents an investment for cultural institutions: machinery, training of staff and the transition of collection’s information into an up-to-date content management system are all necessary tools to deliver a comprehensive and successful digital artistic experience to the public. The research institute on digital innovation of cultural heritage and museums of the Politecnico Milan School of Management revealed that during the first Italian lockdown the interest of Italian population in art and culture has grown considerably: the increase in the number of users of the social media channels of the main Italian museums and cultural institutions testifies this new trend. The interactions between institutions and their audiences remained almost unchanged compared to previous years. Only 5% of Italian institutions offer interactive activities and games to engage with potential visitors – in particular the youngest. These kinds of activities are part of a bigger trend called ‘gamification’, which consists in borrowing elements and dynamics from games and game design techniques and applying them in non-playful contexts, such as museums and cultural organizations. Gamification allows children and digital natives to approach artworks and museum collections in a fun and appealing way. 

Pirelli Hangar Bicocca

The outbreak of Covid-19 accelerated the digital transition of several sectors of the economy. Art museums and cultural institutions had to implement new strategies to engage with their audiences and deliver high-quality content outside their physical exhibition spaces. Pirelli Hangar Bicocca has developed an online project called ‘Bubble’ which allows users to explore the global contemporary art scene through a variety of content related to art exhibitions and cultural events held by the foundation. Through the implementation of digital technologies, Pirelli Hangar Bicocca made its archive material accessible to users who can float from one bubble to another in a fluid and easy way. 

Agnese Torres

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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