Big data is all around us. But what is big data and how does it refer to art? It will drive art innovations., We see it happening. Slowly, but surely it changes the way of how to consume art. We got used by Netflix and others to suggest films based on profiles. Digital bookstores help us with titles. Now visual art gets in the action. The new digital creativity strongly linked to science may soon manipulate the way we meet art in museums, galleries, and online.

Winning back the visitors

After Covid eased up museums and galleries tried to attack back tourists. Italy, is one of the most significant museum scenes. The country attracts millions of tourists and tries to regain some of the 190 million euros ($225 million) in revenue it lost last year.

Desperate times require a new approach

With Covid, the art world moved more and more into the digital space. So a new Big data project tries to help curators understand which paintings and sculptures are of interest to the public to improve the visitors’ experience.

A research team at Italy’s new-technologies agency ENEA has developed a system based on devices that can calculate how long and how closely museum and gallery visitors observe a particular work of art. The Fast-moving Consumer Goods Industry is using this method to check the effectiveness of ads or track how consumers behave in front of retail shelves for decades.

The ShareArt System

The ShareArt system uses cameras positioned near the artwork, which follow the viewers. It registers data on time spent, the distance of observation, and behavior. The aim is to redefine the “attraction value” of the artwork, based on this hard data.

This will surely lead to changes in museum and gallery layouts or exhibit scheduling, according to ENEA researchers Stefano Ferriani, Giuseppe Marghella, Simonetta Pagnutti, and Riccardo Scipinotti.


“Thanks to simple data elaboration, an observer’s gaze can be translated into a graphic,” Ferriani said in an interview. “We can detect where most of the peoples’ attention is concentrated.”

Hard to get real attention

Very few works keep art lovers viewing for more than 15 seconds, according to the research. The average observation time is just 4 to 5 seconds. On the other hand, avoiding crowds at the hot spots is handy in respect of Covid Social Distancing Protocols.

Grandi said that once Covid mask restrictions are dropped, advanced techniques may allow ShareArt to capture facial expressions, allowing researchers to match quantitative data with cognitive psychology analysis.

So Big data will tell curators, what art fans prefer. So they will need to find the balance between teaching visitors and being taught by them. What a great chance to reshape success patterns in art.


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