Representing the U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
An integrated international communications campaign for Madison Square Park Conservancy supporting both its exhibition of Martin Puryear for the U.S. Pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale and its ongoing visual arts commissioning program in the Park
R+A has crafted and led communications campaigns for more than 10 different commissioning institutions for national pavilions at the Venice Biennale. Leveraging expertise and insights accrued throughout these previous engagements, R+A commenced work with Madison Square Park Conservancy in 2018, launching a multiyear communications campaign to promote its role as the commissioning institution for the U.S. Pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale. Our communications work positioned the Pavilion project—an exhibition of new work by Martin Puryear—within the full sweep of the Conservancy’s ongoing activities, including its public art commissions, educational and public programs, and cultivation events.
Marking the first time that a public art institution, as opposed to a more traditional museum, was selected to represent the U.S. Pavilion, R+A’s communications program was designed to advance a number of key goals for the Conservancy, including:
•Building awareness of the range, depth, and curatorial rigor of its public art program on a national and international scale
•Enhancing the profile of the Conservancy among museum and art world leaders, the press, and the general public
•Generating underwriting for the Martin Puryear commission and expanding the Conservancy’s ongoing base corporate, foundation, and individual support
•Establishing and deepening media relationships for the Conservancy with opinion-leading press in New York, nationally, and internationally
In the early phase of the campaign, R+A developed an integrated communications plan and timeline to ensure syncopation of outreach and news, as well as a set of key messages that strategically positioned and distinguished the Conservancy and its programs. The campaign was publicly launched in August 2018 with an exclusive in The New York Times announcing the selection of Martin Puryear and the Conservancy to represent the U.S. at the Biennale.
R+A continued to build interest in the project and the Conservancy’s work by conceptualizing and implementing an institutional press briefing and luncheon, held in New York in November 2018. The event engaged 28 leading editors and writers from priority publications with the historic significance of the Conservancy’s selection as commissioner, the curatorial rigor of its program in the Park, and current and upcoming initiatives. R+A additionally identified and coordinated other opportunities for Pavilion Commissioner and Curator Brooke Kamin Rapaport to meet with opinion-leading media on an individual basis in New York and other important markets to foster coverage and build ongoing relationships.
In the lead-up to the Vernissage, R+A pursued preview, feature, news, and review coverage about the U.S. Pavilion across national and international publications, leveraging key project milestones to drive strategic media outreach and garner additional placements with priority outlets.
Alongside our development of Pavilion-specific press releases and materials, R+A also created an institutional press kit for the Conservancy, including leadership bios and institutional backgrounders. This core institutional press kit was regularly updated and widely distributed throughout the campaign to inform a nuanced understanding of the Conservancy and thoughtful coverage about the U.S. Pavilion as well as visual art programs by Arlene Shechet and Leonardo Drew that were on view during this time period at the Park.
R+A drove attendance to the U.S. Pavilion through targeted outreach to national and international arts writers, editors, and critics, encouraging their presence at the press conference and opening events and facilitating extensive critical coverage of the Pavilion. On-site in Venice, R+A also liaised with media visiting the Pavilion, scheduled and oversaw interviews for Puryear and Conservancy leadership, staffed film shoots, and facilitated VIP events.
Alongside our communications and marketing work, R+A also provided counsel on fundraising efforts, including sharing guidance on the calibration of funding tiers and associated benefits, as well as identifying and facilitating introductions to new funders. The Conservancy also retained us to support sponsor and peer cultivation opportunities, including the development of a pre-arranged private tour schedule of the Pavilion with leading institutions. These tours connected high level donors, collectors, and institutions with the commissioner and artist’s work and served to build and reinforce relationships for the Conservancy among its peers.
Given the confidential nature of the exhibition content pre-Vernissage, our media strategy was focused on securing a lead profile of Puryear with Holland Cotter at The New York Times. Additional key feature coverage that appeared in advance of the Biennale included major profiles and Q&As with Brooke Kamin Rapaport in The New York Times, The Financial Times, and Frieze.
Ultimately, R+A’s media relations campaign generated over 150 articles on the U.S. Pavilion, with coverage and social media posts appearing in 14 countries and a total media reach of over 5 billion. Major coverage and reviews ran in a diverse array of outlets, including:
- High-end lifestyle publications including T Magazine, Forbes, Galerie, and Town & Country
- Major opinion‐leading dailies including The New York Times, which ran three high-impact features on the Pavilion over the course of less than a year, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Financial Times, and The Guardian
- Art trades including ARTnews, Art in America, Apollo, Frieze, The Art Newspaper, and Artsy, among others
These stand-alone previews, feature placements, and reviews, alongside trend stories that included the project and the Conservancy served to build international recognition for the Biennale project and Park installations, and to raise visibility for the Conservancy as an innovator in the field of public art.
More than 400 media from around the world visited the U.S. Pavilion during the Vernissage, and many shared positive sentiments about Puryear’s commission across social media platforms. Notable posts included tweets and Instagram posts from publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Art Newspaper, ARTnews, Artnet, and Artsy.
- Summer 2018 – Campaign planning and development of lead press release and institutional press kit
- August 2018 – Distribution of press release announcing Martin Puryear and Madison Square Park Conservancy as artist and commissioner for the U.S. Pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale
- November 2018 – Institutional press briefing and luncheon held in New York, drawing more than 25 writers and editors
- February 2019 – Distribution of updated press release announcing overarching theme of U.S. Pavilion
- April 2019 – “Party in the Park” Gala honoring Puryear
- May 2019 – Venice Biennale opens. Distribution of final press release announcing full project details. R+A facilitates all press and VIP visits on-site at the U.S. Pavilion