Settling into a ‘new normal’ at home redefined what really mattered. Dislocated from human connection, soulful pleasures became a new luxury.
Museums and public art institutions closed their doors and the cultural world was forced online.
Overnight, the well-resourced ones seized their digital lifeline to access mass audiences.
Before this, digital was not integral to communications plans.
COVID-19 pushed forward the urgency.
Museums, the performing arts, art fairs and luxury experiences, including wine tastings, came to our sitting rooms through Zoom or similar.
It cannot be denied that culture is under pressure.
The economic impact for cultural institutions from lost corporate sponsorship, retail and ticket sales is unthinkable.
One could question how and whether this will ever be restored.
Despite significant losses, culture is sitting on a profound opportunity. High forms of culture, including opera and ballet, have long struggled to engage diverse audiences and are now reaching record numbers of viewers on multiple platforms.
For all the criticism that culture can be elitist, the lockdown has broken barriers and increased choice in a more relevant way, to more people.
Quick to respond to the crisis was The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which invited its followers to recreate great works of art at home.
It went viral.
Virtual reality has enabled museums – the Louvre, British Museum, Guggenheim and others – to open up miles of galleries for all to see.
Art Basel’s Online Viewing Rooms crashed due to popularity.
Blockbuster productions, including The National Theatre’s Frankenstein, have attracted more than a million views.
Likewise, The Royal Opera House’s #ourhousetoyourhouse initiative has been garnering 250,000 weekly views for its opera and ballet performances.
These unprecedented attendance levels prove the relevance of streaming cultural events in a digital era.
In the luxury setting, private members’ wine club 67 Pall Mall has successfully taken its events online entirely.
Furthermore, fine wine specialists, such as Four Corners Wines, are hosting small-group virtual tastings in California.
Wines are delivered pre-tasting and guests experience an interactive guided tour of the region via Google Earth.
Live from the sun-drenched vines they ‘meet’ the winemaker.
In travel-restricted times, this is as authentic as it gets.
This short-term solution is proving so popular with global clients that it’s likely to stay.
Ultimately, there is a reason why theatre scripts are written to be performed on stage and why the sensory experience of a wine-tasting is superior in person.
The energy of live performance and human connection is unparalleled.
Its role in creating a unique and meaningful experience will become more of a luxury as fewer people are able to access it in the context of prolonged social distancing.
In future, cultural transactions may be completed more frequently online. It’s a powerful proposition to reach far beyond traditional structures and meet different audiences.
Against the backdrop of uncertainty, culture is diversifying, growing and proving its importance in people’s lives.
It’s even more relevant now for a brand to channel its purpose through culture to connect with its audience.
Nina Plowman is managing partner at Cultural Comms
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