Van Gogh's Bedrooms: The power of an immersive idea

IPA Effectiveness Awards Case Study 2018

The Art Institute of Chicago wanted to publicise its Van Gogh exhibition and broaden the audience for art, particularly by getting more Chicago locals to visit the museum. A strategy was built on the insight that art was an immersive experience, not a series of objects to view. Digital and outdoor positioned the show as a keyhole into the artist’s world, with activity culminating in a recreation of Van Gogh’s painted bedroom that could be booked via Airbnb. The exhibition generated the museum’s best attendance figures in 15 years, $1.6M of long-term revenue from new memberships, and local museum visitors outnumbered tourists for the first time in 10 years.

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The Art Institute of Chicago is the second largest art museum in the country and has a collection that spans the globe and encompasses 5,000 years of creativity. The museum holds the best Impressionist collection outside of Paris and TripAdvisor Travelers ranked us the top museum in the world in 2014. And yet, our local visitation is not where we want it to be. Chicagoans are exceedingly proud of the museum, but pride doesn’t always translate to a visit. So over the last six years, the Art Institute has partnered with Leo Burnett to drive attendance and make the museum more approachable and relevant to the people of Chicago. . . and all on a shoestring budget. With Van Gogh’s Bedrooms, we knew what we needed to do was go beyond the intrinsic power of a major exhibition and bring the exhibition—and the artist—to life. Leo Burnett developed the simple, galvanizing insight that all of us are curious about how others live. All of us are voyeurs. And that insight led to the development of Van Gogh bnb, the remarkably executed installation that literally gave people the chance to step inside one of history’s most famous paintings. The results of this campaign speak for themselves, but it’s difficult to overstate the excitement and buzz around the city of Chicago that this campaign engendered. But it of course wasn’t just PR and social chatter. This exhibition brought Chicagoans to the museum in crowds we haven’t seen for 15 years, fulfilling our goals, but more importantly, reaffirming their relationship with the museum and its cultural prominence in the city of Chicago.

Katie Rahn, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications
Art Institute of Chicago

Winners 2018

Silver Winner


Van Gogh's Bedrooms: The power of an immersive idea


Art Institute of Chicago


Art Institute of Chicago


Art Institute of Chicago
Leo Burnett Chicago

Principal Authors

  • Clifford Schwandner - Leo Burnett Chicago
  • Ariel Tishgart - Leo Burnett Chicago

Contributing Authors

  • Brent Nelsen - Leo Burnett North America

Credited Companies

  • Leo Burnett Chicago - Creative Agency
  • Ravenswood Studio - Other|Production Company

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