Tuesday, 9 November 2010

AGO rolls out the Royce for the Cadillac of art exhibitions


Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts

Launching an Art exhibition is like posting a new website. If you don't get an audience in the first week or two, in all likelihood you are doomed to the curse of low numbers. If you hate to see a website die, you will absolutely loathe to see an art show tank at the box office. No attendance. No revenue. And,in these days of tight government money, no revenue means public rebuke, a tsunami of second guessing and staff lay-offs.
Long before the public knows about an upcoming blockbuster, we publicists are hard at work trying to make sure that never happens. That means getting the media up-to-speed about what is coming down the road. There are two goals for the early pumping of sunshine. We want to get advanced publicity so that our audience is already marking our show in their Blackberries, and secondly, we want to make sure that our media launch will be well attended.

PR is free ... sort of. An art gallery has to pay someone like me. The coffee and doughnuts don't come cheap (kidding), the press kits have to be produced and the curators have to take a break long enough to speak intelligently at the preview media launch.
It is almost always worth the effort. Common wisdom holds that a consumer is 4 times more likely to believe and be motivated by an article in print than if he or she saw an ad for the same event. People are even more motivated when they see moving images on television compared to 20-second paid spot.
A full page advertisement in a Toronto daily can cost $30,000. A well attended media preview can result in the equivalent of 20 full page advertisements! Not bad for a plate of stale doughnuts.
In pre-recession days, when the media was flush and the Internet was a bit player on the arts scene, a well attended media preview was a sure bet. Not anymore. Papers don't have space, television doesn't have spare cameras, and when was the last time a radio station (aside from the CBC) sent a real reporter to an art preview?
The Art Gallery of Ontario is ready to launch a MAJOR exhibition this month. Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts, is a British created traveling exhibition that will appeal not only to the art world, but, Ontario's growing Indo-Canadian community. This is the first exhibition to comprehensively explore the opulent world of the maharajas and their unique culture of artistic patronage.
The AGO PR department is organizing a full scale mediapreview for early next week, but, in an effort to make sure that the media understands the "Bigness" of this exhibition, held a Media pre-preview today. This is something usually not done in Toronto, just because it is hard enough to get the media out once for a full scale press conference, let alone twice to a not-so-complete exhibition hall.
Although the galleries are still being prepared, the media was allowed in this morning to see THE major piece of the exhibition being installed. It was a tease - it put the media on notice that bigger and better things will be unveiled next week.
Gallery installers put down their tools long enough for the media, myself included, to take pictures and video of “ The Star of India”, an antique Rolls Royce Phantom II. This legendary 1934 Rolls Royce Phantom II (pictured above) was custom-built for His Highness Thakore Sahib Dharmendrasinhji Lakhajiraj of Rajkot. The car is named after the famous 563 carat star sapphire “Star of India”.
According to Haema Sivanessan,AGO Special Project Assistant"the Star of India is almost the most famous Rolls Royce on the earth, second only to the original Rolls Royce Silver Ghost".
The bonnet and wings shown in the photo above, are made of polished aluminum and the rest of the body is of a saffron ochre finish, a tinge which is a symbol of purity in India. Visible on all doors and side windows is Rajkot’s state crest with an inscription meaning “an impartial ruler of men of all faiths.”
The car is on loan from an auction house and last I heard is up for sale for $13 million. I believe it is still roadworthy but because of its value is not driven
I am the mirror opposite of a car buff. I see the automobile as a tool, not a work of art. No matter, even I was impressed by the stately look of the Star of India. It is a statement of pure form and superior craftmanship. It was worth the trip to Dundas Street to attend a pre-preview!
How did the other media feel? Just about same as me. The pre-preview attracted a couple of TV crews and a gaggle of photographers and reporters, all who seemed genuinely impressed by the AGO's rolling stock.
The exhibition (sponsored in part by Scotiabank) opens to the public on November 20, 2010 and runs to April 3, 2011. Assuming that the pre-preview has done its job then you alreadly know that, don't you?
Top: The Star of India - Blackberry photo of the 1934 Rolls Royce
Middle: Haema Sivanessan,AGO Special Project Assistant, is interviewed by the CBC beside the Star of India.
Bottom: The Patiala Necklace. Exhibit within the upcoming Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts

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