‘Wild’ (fauve) is probably the word that best defines the picture the Museum is currently using to publicize its Kees Van Dongen exhibition, but how was the image that is the leitmotif of the campaign chosen?

The choice of image for a communication campaign is a process based on a relationship of complicity involving the Museum’s Director, the Exhibitions Department, the curators, the Publications Department and the Photography Archive, all of whom take part in a process that begins at the moment that the decision is made to put on the show.

The communication campaigns of the Museu Picasso de Barcelona are not off-the-peg but tailor-made haute couture. In saying this I am not being elitist but simply descriptive, because there are a great many factors to be fine-tuned and the best options must be chosen in each case. Communicating exactly the right message is not easy, and the responsibility to show to its best advantage what others have created is the main priority: we are the medium, and we have to bring out the most interesting aspects of each project.

So, where do we start? The first discussion take place about two years in advance, and serve to define the essential character of the show and set out the main guidelines of the communication campaign. In this case the exhibition is a retrospective of Kees Van Dongen’s art, conceived as an introduction to his life and work and highlighting as a key difference from the show’s presentation in Monaco and Montreal his connection with Barcelona and his close relationship with Picasso. Right at the outset it was decided that the title of the exhibition would not make any concessions to evocation or  description: it would simply be the artist’s name, Kees Van Dongen, as a statement of intentions.

The image. Here, too, the decision seemed clear: we were in no doubt that we should focus on the specificity of the show in relation to our city. The image publicizing the exhibition would therefore be one of the portraits of Fernande Olivier, Picasso’s partner who modelled for Van Dongen and symbolized the link between the two artists. This time there would be no surprises… or would there?

After the first tests with the graphic designers it became apparent that there was a serious drawback to using one of the portraits of Fernande: the connection between image and content was clear enough to us, but would it be clear to the public? The answer was no.

The challenge. In many cases, the work of the Communication Department involves being able to stand back from the project and go out on the street and look at it from the perspective of someone whose perception was not conditioned by working on the project on a daily basis. That is what we did, and we quickly discovered that Van Dongen and Fauvism were largely unknown in Barcelona and Spain; the challenge, then, was to turn this weakness into a strength.

The decision. A lot of possibilities were discarded and a lot of tests carried out before arriving at what we felt was the most appropriate choice. During 1908 and 1909, Van Dongen painted a self-portrait in orangey reds, a composition dominated by the sharp lines of the cheekbones and the defiant, almost surly expression. What better visiting card than this self-portrait for an artist so little known in this country?

The image chosen to publicize the Kees Van Dongen exhibition.

The image satisfied all our requirements: it clearly presented the man and his work, it was easy to recognize and relate to the exhibition, it had a real unity of volume and it was totemic and easy to reproduce in a variety of formats and media. In due course it also met one of the key requirements of any campaign in meeting with the approval of the lenders. In many cases the image considered the most effective for publicizing an exhibition has to be discarded because the owners of the work refuse permission to use it.

The result. The date of the opening marks the starting signal and, in a strategically coordinated launch in the public space and the media, the campaign takes to the street with posters, banners and Adshels, adverts in the newspapers and spots on the radio. The planning of the ads in the media and the obtaining of the necessary permits is done well in advance: Barcelona is a very lively city and there is plenty of competition from other high-profile cultural events.

All that’s missing now is the reaction of the public. Important as the technical studies of potential market response are, the best way to get a real ‘in-the-flesh’ empirical sense of how the campaign is going is to mix with people on the street and visitors to the show and listen to what they say. With the Torres García exhibition, and more recently with Living Things. Picasso: Figure/Still-life, the crews putting up the banners would call to tell us that, as they were hanging them, people passing by would ask for a banner to keep as a souvenir. That, for me, is one of the best indications that the job is properly targeted.

Here are Anna Bru de Sala and me in our office in the Communication and Press Department at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona. On the wall you can see some of the elements proposed for the publicity image for the Van Dongen exhibition.
Knowing the project thoroughly, listening to all of the people involved, reaching agreement on the proposals and, finally, making the decision and explaining the merits of the chosen option. This is the process that we follow.

Afterword: the proposals that didn’t make it. The three short-listed proposals in this process were pinned up in the corridor outside our office and I listened to the comments of the people who stopped to look at them… and I let myself be captivated by the artist, by his paintings, by the environment in which he lived… I would have been happy to choose a picture of a woman sitting on a sofa, but the fact is that the exhibition was much more than that.

propostes_keesvandongenStrip of images of the three proposals side by side.

Manel Baena
Communication and Press Department

Do you like the image we selected?
What image would you have chosen?

  • Olatz
    July 18, 2009

    m’agrada que sigui salvatge!!! l’autoretrat té molta força, però a mi m’agrada la dona asseguda en un canapè, la 4arta, la que destaquen més les lletres…

  • Herminia
    November 30, -0001

    jo tambe hagues triat la de l,autoretrat: es la q t,e mes força, la mes fauvista. Les altres tambe son imatges maques, pero no capten tant.

  • Xavier
    July 24, 2009

    Quina bona idea explicar el procés, no ho havia ensopegat en cap web. Em sembla molt inteerssant i diu molt del desig q expresseu al blog d’explicar com es treballa al vostre museu. I ensenyar les imatges descartades, magnífic!. Per cert, jo també hauria triat la més fauve de totes, l’autorretrat

  • Francesc
    August 24, 2009

    Molt bona idea la d’explicar tot el procés fins arribar a triar la imatge de l’exposició. Totalment d’acord amb que l’autorretrat és la més adient però cal dir que totes les altres propostes son també magnífiques, de fet com tots els quadres d’aquest pintor sorprenent. El fet de triar la imatge amb les lletres grans també penso és del tot encertada..dona més impacte al conjunt.

  • Alexandra Laudo
    November 4, 2010

    Que interessant poder conèixer el procés de treball que ha donat lloc a aquesta campanya de comunicació. Em sembla molt acertat que compartiu aquests processos amb el públic. Gràcies.

  • Redacció del museu
    November 4, 2010

    De res, Alexandra. Nosaltres també trobem molt interessant que la gent pugui conèixer aspectes de la feina d’un museu que acostumen a ser més desconeguts de cara al públic. Si vols compartir alguna experiència pròpia estàs més que convidada.

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