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India at the AGO – is this one way to gain an audience for Maharaja?

October 21st, 2010

What is the best way to market the Maharaja exhibition to the South Asian community in the GTA? That was the major question posed to advisory committee last week by the the marketing, public relations, and programming departments at the AGO.

So how many people can fit around the table?

The committee was peppered with questions, from where the billboards targeting the South Asian community should go, to what languages should be used for advertising. That question led to a rather energetic debate between some who proposed Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi as the key languages to others who felt it would be unfair to ignore Tamil or Bengali. We definitely proved that the South Asian community is also a group of communities!

Also asked: What would be a great tag-line to go with the exhibition? Something with a call-to-action. What’s an example? The one that got everyone in the room aha-ing was the AGO’s own ad campaign, the catchy “Gotta Go to the AGO” that ran during the opening of the Frank Gehry redesign.

After some silence – it was a tough question – the discussion revolved around the issue about how to excite folks within these groups to come to Maharaja if they are not regular gallery visitors.  The AGO voices around the table recognize that minorities still don’t feel like the AGO is theirs.  It’s one reason the advisory committee was convened.

So the question shifted – how important is it to a minority community to see themselves in a mainstream space? Pretty darned important is a paraphrase of the answer.

One suggestion was tapping into cultural pride. Would something like “India at the AGO” on a billboard in Brampton draw 905-ers downtown? Or would that alienate people with a Pakistani background? (Check out an earlier blog post: What makes Maharaja a Risky Business.)

What do you think? Tell us your ideas about attracting new audiences to the AGO’s upcoming Maharaja exhibition.

Piali Roy is a Toronto freelance writer with a long-held interest in South Asian culture and history. You can contact her at

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4 Responses to “India at the AGO – is this one way to gain an audience for Maharaja?”

  1. Asma Mahmood says:

    Maybe AGO should not be so gungho about reaching the South Asian community ..Advrrtising in the South Asian publications is extremely important but not for free! Use the marketing budget to involve the South Asian media and ask them to write stories starting now , involving public and readership not just translation of press release but real content! Cost of advertising in these papers is way less then mainstream media.
    Concentrate on your regular visitors the most..They are the ones who will visit religiously and buy the goods/ souvenirs….Reaching the community especially south Asian is only by offering as many freebies as possible.. give out one ticket to a family and they will bring more people in. So target schools. You are already way behind in publicity for this show..By this time your ads should have been appearing in US magazines and newspapers also southASIAian media …Nothing has appeared there..Your biggest crowds should be coming from across the border..Chicago, Newyok, even Detroit!
    Fashion shows are a very attractive medium..High end show like Indiva would capture women very well.
    Do not forget the voice of is important to have a talk or sessions with South Asian artists where they talk about their dissatisfaction ..Maharaja..How bad is the idea? or will give it the important intellectual bend that validates such controversial subject!
    I sent Amanad a a list of South Asian Media long time ago..and if you guys are still looking for media then you are too late in the game….

  2. Amanjeet says:

    I’m really curious as to which royal courts are sharing for the exhibition since I remember being in Jaipur and warned against taking photos because the current maharaja didn’t want to see his family’s artifacts duplicated for sale…

  3. Amanjeet says:

    to follow up on my first comment, details about the courts could deflect attention from “India” for those that don’t identify as such but recognize the shared history

  4. Laila3443 says:

    I think making the exhibit free for those under 25 is a good start!

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