Summative Evaluation: Body Art Exhibition

The Museum developed and hosted the Body Art exhibition in 2000 and 2002. We undertook several visitor surveys and here’s some of the results.

The Museum developed and hosted the Body Art exhibition in 2000 and 2002. We undertook several visitor surveys and here’s some of the results.

Who visited Body Art?
We attracted the young adult cultural market:

  • aged 19-34 (67% compared to 42% AM profile)
  • visited with friends or partner (53% compared to 27% AM profile)
  • university graduates (49% compared to 42% AM profile)
  • Mix of lapsed visitors, new visitors (including tourists), and recent visitors
  • Attracted more new visitors than recent AM exhibitions (40% compared to 23% AM profile)
  • Attracted more tourists than usual (30% compared to 15% AM profile)
  • Attracted people who also visit galleries and other cultural venues: 36% had visited AGNSW (compared to 10% Bats visitors), 33% had visited MCA (compared to 1% Bats visitors)
  • Also attracted those who visit Aquarium and Zoo (tourists) and Fox Studios (28% had visited Fox compared to 11% of Bats visitors)
  • Similar profile to Punkulture (1997) and Wildlife Foto (1999) exhibitions

People visited because:

  • they are adorned (e.g. have a tattoo, piercing, etc)
  • they don’t have adornment but know others that have
  • they are interested in the topic: want to know why people do it especially when it hurts!
  • 85% came especially to see Body Art (compared to 58% Bats)
  • others were visiting AM anyway and exhibition sounded interesting

Reactions to exhibition extremely positive

  • Visitor comments showed that people made personal connections with the people and stories in the exhibition:
  • tattooing and piercing are familiar topics
  • visitors believe that these are individuals’ personal choices to make
  • branding and scarification not widely known, less understood, a curiosity factor
  • People talked about the parallels between Western and ‘traditional’ cultures:
  • found some forms of body art more understandable when the culture had traditional beliefs and practices
  • asked why do Westerners do it: fashion, trendy, peer thing?
  • branding/scarification more likely to bring out these views as people believe they are specific cultural and ritualistic practices

The exhibition was thoroughly used:

  • 86% of visitors spent more than 30 minutes in exhibition
  • 41% spent more than one hour in exhibition

Reactions to Australian Museum as host:

  • In front-end study was seen as a surprising exhibition for the AM, on reflection they thought that AM would bring more credibility and deeper levels of content and information
  • Visitors to Body Art thought was fantastic that AM doing this: promoting tolerance and understanding, whilst allowing visitor to make up their own mind
  • Also shows that body art is part of a bigger world picture and history: something that humans always have done and always will do
  • 66% thought exhibition met or exceeded their expectations (compared to 50% Bats)
  • More content than they expected, especially corsetry, body modification, cosmetic surgery

Topics of personal interest:

  • Tattooing (56% rated high) and piercing (50% rated high)
  • Scarification and branding of low interest (74%, 72%) with most visitors not exposed to this before

How ‘acceptable’ is body art?
A collaborative project with Centre for Prevention of Psychological Problems in Children, New Children’s Hospital to gather benchmark data on public attitudes to body modification and adornment – how much is enough? We found that acceptability is linked to what’s been done before and how widespread these practices are:

  • 57% think that tattooing is acceptable in Australia with 93% saying it’s more acceptable now than in the past
  • 78% think that piercing is acceptable with 97% saying it’s more acceptable now than in the past
  • 84% don’t think that scarification is acceptable with 43% saying more so than in the past and 31% unsure
  • stronger negative views about branding: 90% don’t think that it is acceptable
  • many visitors did not know much about branding and scarification and therefore were more confronted by these practices, especially when conducted by ‘Westerners’

Further visitor comments can be found here.

Dr Lynda Kelly , Manager Online, Editing and Audience Research
Last Updated: