Developing an exhibition audience with an Instagram competition

Mikolaj Napieralski, Head of Marketing and Public Relations at the Orientalist Museum, Qatar, explains how a social media campaign made it easier for audiences to relate to a ‘difficult sell’ exhibition.


How do you make a fine art exhibition about the Ottoman Empire relevant to a young, international audience? That was the question we were asking ourselves as the Orientalist Museum prepared to launch The Art of Travel: Bartholomäus Schachman (1559-1614).

Held at the ALRIWAQ Art Space in Doha, Qatar, the exhibition introduced visitors to the story of Bartholomäus Schachman – a Polish mayor who travelled throughout the Ottoman Empire during the late 16th century. A renowned diplomat, explorer, and art patron, he commissioned over 100 watercolor miniatures during his travels and compiled them into an album.

Although the exhibition featured wonderful artwork, we were concerned that the themes and concepts would be difficult to communicate to the public. Especially in a region without an established museum heritage. To overcome this, we decided to look for ways to make the exhibition more accessible and relevant to the general public.

Riwaq Wrap


The subsequent Art of Travel Instagram contest was based on two principles:

  1. Travel is a universal theme that is relevant to both the exhibition and a general audience
  2. The most common way for people to record their overseas holidays and travel is to take photos and upload them to Instagram.

Launched alongside the exhibition, the contest asked people to share their travel photos on Instagram and tag them #ArtOfTravel. The best images were then reposted on our own account where people could vote for their favourites. Qatar Airways agreed to give away two international flights to the most popular entry at the end of the campaign.

By emphasizing the travel aspect (and moving the focus away from the Ottoman Empire), we hoped to start a broader conversation about how people capture and share their travel memories.
As the campaign progressed, we gradually incorporated more elements from the exhibition into our media output, subtly linking contemporary Instagram travel photos with the 16th century Ottoman empire paintings on display.


The campaign ran for five weeks and was supported by our other social media pages. The response far exceeded our expectations…

  • Over 6000 entries were submitted
  • Approximately 2000 people participated
  • 65 photos were shortlisted for the competition (which people could vote on)
  • 15,397 ‘likes’ were generated on our Instagram page from entries posted
  • 265 comments were posted about the 65 featured photos
  • Over 400,000 people reached via Instagram

The winning entry was taken by local resident Mohamed Ihab (pictured below). You can view it, and all the other entries to the contest, on the Art of Travel Pinterest page.


Broader takeaway

The Instagram contest was more successful than we anticipated. It took a niche art exhibition in the Middle East and introduced it to an international audience without spending a single marketing dollar. More importantly, it allowed the audience to participate, spread the word, and be part of the campaign.

The accessibility of the contest, the social media focus, and the universal themes that underlined it all, meant that even people who had not previously heard of Orientalist art were motivated to take part. More broadly, the campaign showed that there is a wider market out there that fine art museums can tap into. This is relevant to both our future exhibitions and the wider fine arts community.

AMA conference 2014 – part 3

In his third and final blog post on this year’s AMA conference, Taras Young, Digital Content Manager at the AMA, looks at the last day of the event through the words of those who were there. (Conference photography by Leo Cinicolo)


Having watched colleagues attend AMA conferences for several years and hearing about how much they had gained from and enjoyed the experiences I was excited and eager to attend my first conference. I found every element of the conference well planned and executed and used the guidebook app to help schedule and plan my experience with ease.

Tahnee Craven, Marketing and Education Assistant, The Riverfront

Our third and final day of the AMA conference 2014 started with a keynote from Matt Locke, of creative storytelling agency Storythings, and Clare Reddington, of Bristol’s experimental Pervasive Media Studio.

The theme of the morning keynote asked whether it was time to change how we think about audiences. First up, Matt described five new patterns of audience behaviour, and suggested that the way we work as arts organisations must change to match them.

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AMA conference 2014 – part 2

In the second of three blog posts, Taras Young, Digital Content Manager at the AMA, looks back at the first day of this year’s conference through the words of our members and delegates. (Conference photography by Leo Cinicolo)


The first day of AMA conference 2014 kicked off in Colston Hall, Bristol, with introductions and our opening keynote. With more than 600 delegates in attendance, it was set to be our biggest conference ever.

The 2014 AMA Conference was a great opportunity to take a step back and examine the wider arts marketing environment. I particularly enjoyed the diversity of the speakers and the themes that were covered, from managing “short attention spans” in a world of new technology to re-examining organisational structures so that our institutions are flexible enough to change and grow with our audiences.

I particularly enjoyed that the lectures and social events were held in local theatres, cinemas, and galleries. It was a great opportunity to see how these organisations were run during the conference and offered a fantastic chance to engage directly with arts organisations in Bristol.

Kaitlyn Elphinstone, Communications & Public Engagement Manager, The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands

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Bristol-bound – AMA conference 2014

In the first of three posts looking back at this year’s annual conference, Taras Young, Digital Content Manager at the AMA, shares the experiences of some of the AMA members who were there.

A brilliantly sunny Bristol was the setting for our conference this year. The event was held from 22-24 July, across two main venues – Colston Hall, a traditional 2,000-seat venue, and Watershed, a cultural cinema and digital creativity centre.

On Tuesday 22 July, the AMA team packed up the van with delegate packs, banners and conference guides, and headed down to Bristol to join the delegates from across the UK and around the world.

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Moving digital philanthropy up in the arts agenda

Mary Jane Edwards & Andy Hamflett are co-directors of research agency and consultancy AAM Associates. This post follows their presentation on Digital Philanthropy in the Arts at our 2014 conference in Bristol.

Money - Black and White Money
Photo by @Doug88888 used under Creative Commons

The Ask

My colleague and I went to see The Valley of Astonishment at the Young Vic a few weeks ago and on our seats was a little bit of paper telling us how the work of artists in France was under threat due to proposed changes to their unemployment benefits. We turned the note over and were surprised to find there was no ‘ask’ not least to spread the word to raise awareness, but even to give funds to support their campaign.

Now, this example isn’t even so close to home but aside from membership offers, adding a donation to my ticket purchase and popping a few pounds into a Perspex box we rarely get asked for money.

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