Art museums and the global tourist: Experience centres in experience-scapes
Pennings, Mark W. (2015) Art museums and the global tourist: Experience centres in experience-scapes. In 11th Annual International Conference on Tourism, Athens Institute for Education and Research (ATINER), 8-11 June 8-11 2015, Athens, Greece. (Unpublished)
In the experience economy, the role of art museums has evolved so as to cater to global cultural tourists. These institutions were traditionally dedicated to didactic functions, and served cognoscenti with elite cultural tastes that were aligned with the avant-garde’s autonomous stance towards mass culture. In a post-avant-garde era however museums have focused on appealing to a broad clientele that often has little or no knowledge of historical or contemporary art. Many of these tourists want art to provide entertaining and novel experiences, rather than receiving pedagogical ‘training’. In response, art museums are turning into ‘experience venues’ and are being informed by ideas associated with new museology, as well as business approaches like Customer Experience Management. This has led to the provision of populist entertainment modes, such as blockbuster exhibitions, participatory art events, jazz nights, and wine tasting, and reveals that such museums recognize that today’s cultural tourist is part of an increasingly diverse and populous demographic, which shares many languages and value systems. As art museums have shifted attention to global tourists, they have come to play a greater role in gentrification projects and cultural precincts. The art museum now seems ideally suited to tourist-centric environments that offer a variety of immersive sensory experiences and combine museums (often designed by star-architects), international hotels, restaurants, high-end shopping zones, and other leisure forums. These include sites such as Port Maravilha urban waterfront development in Rio de Janiero, the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart, and the Chateau La Coste winery and hotel complex in Provence. It can be argued that in a global experience economy, art museums have become experience centres in experience-scapes. This paper will examine the nature of the tourist experience in relation to the new art museum, and the latter’s increasingly important role in attracting tourists to urban and regional cultural precincts.
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