Remembering the Human Factor in Tech
Imagine you are at a dinner party, with an assortment of interesting art world people, and someone comes up to you and says, “Can you tell me what art you own? I’m working on an exhibition”. I don’t imagine this would be terribly engaging - likely that you’d politely smile and back away, hoping to never speak to this intrusive individual again.
Imagine a second scenario at the same table, and this person instead comes up and tells you “I’m working on a show about the way Caravaggist painting techniques impact 21st century painters.” The person happens to pique your interest, and you comment that you own a few works related to this theory, and wonder whether the artist is consciously or subconsciously working in the chiaroscuro technique.
I think it’s pretty clear which of the two scenarios is more likely to get a result.
But when I first thought of Vastari, I didn’t think about the human factor. Writing up a business plan while working at a gallery, Vastari was going to be a huge search engine where collectors upload their collections to be visible to museums. In essence, I was being a lot like the person in the first scenario, asking collectors to “show everything” to try and make a collaboration happen.
Vastari still operates that search engine where non-profit museum curators can find collectors to collaborate with - but it now has a much more effective tool that connects collectors and museums for exhibition loans, that emulates the second scenario. We call this feature “Object Requests”.
With Object Requests, museum curators are able to upload information about what kind of works they are looking for, and describe their upcoming exhibitions. This means they share what they are planning in the coming years, and collectors can reach out if they’re interested in lending pieces.
Current requests range from an exhibition in 2021 about abstract expressionist works by African American artists, to a British institution working on a show about the “Great British Seaside”, to a French institution looking for turn of the century works (1870-1920) inspired by Byzantine art.
This intriguing one-on-one approach with an open ended question tends to elicit more positive responses from collectors.
Once collectors register to the Vastari platform and discover that there are so many interesting requests from museums, they feel more comfortable sharing their whole collection to be searched by curators. We have to build up the trust with them first, and then they engage with us at a deeper level.
In retrospect, it’s just common sense. But it’s funny how when you’re developing technology, you can sometimes forget about the human factor.
If you’re a museum curator who wants to try out this feature, set up an account here.
If you’re a collector and want to find out what museums are looking for, set up an account here.