Art and media innovation

Water lillies by Claude Monet. National Gallery, London

Water lillies by Claude Monet. National Gallery, London


When I started at Edelman, I was lucky enough to be based just around the corner from the National Gallery in London.

Sometimes, when I needed to clear my head, I’d take a wander down there to find some inspiration.

I never had the luxury of enough time to roam the halls for too long, so I’d usually pick a picture, sit down and focus on it for a while.

I suppose it was a kind of ‘creative meditation’.

But it worked, and more often than not I’d go back to the office feeling fresher and reinvigorated.

The ‘restorative power of art’ in action.

Only a few weeks ago the National Gallery changed its policy on photography.

Now visitors are free to snap any work anywhere in the Gallery, as long as they don’t use flash; it tends to bug other visitors.

The Gallery team talked about their experiences so far at a Social Media Week event they hosted a couple of weeks ago.

So far the new policy has proved to be a success, both in helping people get more out of their Gallery visits and raising the profile of the artworks through online sharing.

After the Social Media Week presentation I took a proper tour round and saw lots of people on cameras, phones and tablets snapping away.

They were all still taking time to appreciate the paintings and the new policy didn’t seem to be disturbing the flow of people through the halls.

The art is strong enough to speak for itself and command direct attention.

But walking round the Gallery made me realise the tremendous amount of media innovation on display and the power of visual storytelling.

Particularly the earlier works on display – painted at a time when literacy levels in Europe were low and access to media rare for those outside the elite classes – really show how choosing a simple subject, captured with plenty of nuance, can captivate an audience.

As technique developed in perspective, light, colour, texture and so on, you also see how painters adapted to heighten the impact of their work.

This week, North Korea has been in the news a great deal due to the conspicuous absence of Kim Jong-un from public life.

A bit of an odd link back to my tour of the National Gallery, but it reminded me that this is one of my favourite ever infographics:

Korea at night. From

Korea at night. From

It’s a photograph of the Korean peninsula taken at night from space.

Like the paintings in the National Gallery, it’s a simple, powerful subject that tells a million stories about the states of North and South Korea in a single image.

While I was in the Gallery I tried to get a snap of someone photographing a picture; it was tricky to do and I probably looked a bit like a stalker attempting it, so I gave up.

So instead, you’ve got some Water lillies.

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