While Italy’s museums and galleries welcome tourists and try to recoup part of the €190 million ($225 million) in revenue lost last year, a new data project may help curators understand which paintings and sculptures will be able to attract the most attention.
A research team from the Italian agency for new technologies ENEA developed a system based on devices that can calculate how long and how closely museum and gallery visitors observe a given work of art.
Using cameras positioned close to the artwork, the ShareArt system absorbs data about the number of viewers and their behavior while looking at a painting, sculpture, or artifact, including elapsed time and viewing distance.
This could help define the “attractive value” of specific artworks, leading to changes in the layout of museums and galleries and in the exhibition schedule, according to ENEA researchers Stefano Ferriani, Giuseppe Marghella, Simonetta Pagnutti and Riccardo Scipinotti.
Although the system originally conceived by Scipinotti dates back to 2016, it has only been implemented for live testing in recent weeks, after a government decision to fully reopen museums and galleries that were closed due to the pandemic.
Fourteen ShareArt devices are being tested in a joint project with the Istituzione Bologna Musei, offering researchers the chance to experience its technology in exhibitions with a wide range of works of art of various shapes, periods and sizes, without compromising on viewers’ privacy.
“Thanks to the simple elaboration of data, an observer’s gaze can be translated into a graph,” Ferriani said in an interview. “We can detect where most of people’s attention is focused.”
Looking at “Saint Sebastião Auxiliado por Santa Irene” by Trophime Bigot, for example, “we noticed that observers tended to focus not on the center of the composition, but slightly to the right of the saint’s face, thanks to the interplay of light and shadow created. by the artist’s brush”.
ShareArt also tracks how many users stop in front of an artwork and how long they look at it. Few works keep museum or gallery visitors “glued” to the site for more than 15 seconds, the researchers said, with an average observation time of just 4 to 5 seconds.
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