Image from Van Gogh Alive – The Experience. Copyright Grande Exhibitions
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Interview with Bruce Peterson

The current edition of TEN profiles and interviews key individuals at some of the most successful exhibition production companies from around the world.

Dedicated to providing an entirely new experience of art, Grande Exhibitions’ CEO Bruce Peterson explains why new immersive environments might be the future of exhibitions, and what’s required to deliver a successful and worthwhile touring show.

Bruce Peterson

Bruce Peterson

TEN: Could you briefly explain what your job involves, at Grande Exhibitions?

Bruce Peterson: I am the sole owner and manager of the business. My main role is leading the way in extract the very best out of company and team of people to deliver great exhibition experiences, on time, every time cost effectively.

TEN: What do you think makes Grande Exhibitions’ approach different to that of other touring exhibition producers?

BP: I suppose there aren’t too many of us 100% dedicated to conceptualising and creating our own new content, and doing this multiple times. We also promote our exhibitions ourselves globally without the use of agents or JV partners. We use exclusively our own Grande Exhibitions staff to manage and supervise the install and de-install process throughout (with assistance of local staff onsite) and I believe we have a very flexible approach which allows us to find ways to work in new, different markets with a variety of different partners.

Our exhibitions tend to be large in size, carry a big brand, affordable to license and all have low production costs relative to their size and many alternative exhibitions. This seems to be an uncommon combination and is key to our business model.

We have now exhibited 120 times in 86 cities across 6 continents in 22 languages … I think this is a pretty unique level of experience which few others exhibitors can parallel.

We have now exhibited 120 times in 86 cities across 6 continents in 22 languages … I think this is a pretty unique level of experience which few others exhibitors can parallel.

TEN: How did GE started working with SENSORY4, and how has it changed how visitors interact with exhibitions?

BP: I first saw the use of a projection-based environment to tell an impactful story in France around 2009. It was really new technology then. The game-changer for Grande was developing a system that could travel; that could go into venues of all shapes and sizes with varying ceiling heights, factoring in columns, light, floors….be cost effective… and be stable over months on end of display… the list of parameters and requirements went on and on. Our team did wonderful work over a 2-year period to develop SENSORY4 (software and hardware) and now it is one of the most engaging, popular, sensory interactive experiences touring the world. We are very proud of this achievement and innovation.

Watch Grande Exhibitions promotional video of their exhibition Van Gogh Alive, using SENSORY4 technology: https://vimeo.com/69858209

Van Gogh Alive – Promotional Video from GRANDE EXHIBITIONS on Vimeo.

TEN: Do you think producers of exhibitions will start to use more of these kinds of immersive tools?

BP: They are already and some museums have for some time. I recently attended the opening of a new WWI commemorative experience at Melbourne Museum, and the creators had used large format projection screens inside each artefact display area to tell a relevant short story. Its not something that you would say every exhibition needs and should have of course, but where ever projection can enhance the story or have the audience interact and engage with the exhibition in a different way, I think it has a place. It’s tough to implement in touring exhibitions however, especially when multiple screens and projectors are involved.

TEN: Many of the shows in GE’s portfolio are focused on art in particular. How do you go about presenting this differently to the way people might experience it in a national art museum, for example?

It is a very conscious decision of ours to show that art can be displayed and experienced in a totally new, exciting and engaging way to existing and new audiences.

BP: It is a very conscious decision of ours to show that art can be displayed and experienced in a totally new, exciting and engaging way to existing and new audiences. For example, simply adding music transcends the art itself into a whole new world of emotional intimacy. We can tell a story on Vincent van Gogh through synchronised image and music that touches emotions arguably better than you can by looking a single or small collection of original paintings or reading a book.

Traditional art galleries can be terribly intimidating and quite frankly boring for many people, especially the young. If I take my kids to a traditional art gallery, you can bet they are tapping me on the shoulder to get going within five minutes, let alone the uproar to get them there in the first place. Yet my kids draw, they create art on their iPads and computers, they manipulate self portraits (selfies) on their iPhones in very creative ways. They are engaged in art and culture, just differently to how generations before were.

Our aim ultimately is to engage for the first time, or to reengage, large numbers of people from all over the world who wouldn’t normally go to, or cannot access a national gallery or a specific original collection of art. Many people in 2nd and 3rd world countries will never have the opportunity to see the work of The French impressionists for example in Paris. We can take the art to them.

TEN: What do you think are some of the most important considerations when planning and touring a show?

BP:

  • The content has to be relevant and tell a worthwhile story
  • The display itself should be of a high quality and entertaining
  • Cost efficient freight and production costs
  • Developing a good advertising brand
  • Partnering with an honest, reliable and skilled local promoter

TEN: Has GE run any shows that have been particular opportunities to learn new things or encounter new challenges?

BP: We recently took SENSORY4 into Almaty, Kazakhstan over a 12 month period with a group who had never run an exhibition before. We displayed five different S4 experiences back to back with basically one day changeover between different experiences, all managed by Grande remotely. This presented enormous challenges on both sides. For Grande particularly; a new promoter, tricky venue, remote city, unskilled local technical labour, language and cultural considerations etc. It was also the first time we have run this many exhibitions simultaneously back to back. Happy to say all went well and everyone learned so much. It also took us into new territory in being able to present multiple experiences to different demographics within the city, without expensive and lengthy production considerations. Heavy production costs in my opinion is the single biggest inhibiting factor for exhibition companies in opening up new markets and new opportunities.

TEN: What do you think the future might hold for touring exhibitions?

BP: There are many challenges ahead for the industry. Along with many opportunities and probably some consolidation, A lot of discussion, debate, cooperation will hopefully occur to increase the professionalism and standards amongst both exhibition creators, the middle man agents and venues/promoters.

The exhibition area has developed quite quickly over the past 10 years, its still quite new and has plenty of scope to grow and develop.

Personally I hope to see more collaboration and sharing of information to highlight successful partnerships and at the same time weed out and expose the unreliable and dishonest players; more creativity and less theft of other people’s IP (under the guise of competition); more exhibitions, more promoters and more venues to increase the market size further; and greater commercial collaboration between exhibition owners, promoters and cultural intuitions. Together we can do so much more.

www.grandeexhibitions.com

» You can read more about the work of Grande Exhibitions in our company profile story

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