Social Media Campaign Brings Picasso’s Art to Life

VMFA and The Martin Agency use technology to reach Picasso enthusiasts

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and The Martin Agency announced today a joint social media effort that brings to life the upcoming exhibition of 176 works from Picasso’s personal collection, Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris.

The only east coast venue for the exhibition’s seven-city international tour, VMFA partnered with The Martin Agency to develop a marketing campaign that Picasso fans can see from anywhere, using Facebook, QR codes and Layar applications to drive information about the exclusive exhibition.

The print and out-of-home elements use a portrait of Picasso made entirely of QR codes. When a phone scans the QR image, it is re-directed to a landing page featuring Picasso’s work and an invitation to buy tickets to the exhibition.

“To honor the progressive nature of Picasso’s work, we created art out of modern technology,” said Keith Cartwright, svp/group creative director at Martin. “Just as Picasso once took found objects – bicycle handlebars, etc. — and brought them together to create works of art, we were able to take something technologically functional, QR codes, and use them as building blocks to create something arresting and beautiful.”

Social media supports the campaign by extending the marketing reach all along the east coast, where multiple out-of-home elements will raise awareness of the exhibition. On the corner of Grand and Wooster streets in New York City, a QR code portrait of Picasso will be painted on the side of a building. In a SoHo neighborhood, as well as in Richmond and Washington, D.C., 22 geo-coordinates will be activated for detection by Layar phone applications. When the Layar application detects the geo-coordinates, augmented reality images from Picasso’s collection will appear on surrounding buildings.

In Philadelphia, an entire storefront and empty store space have been designated as a virtual exhibit, using augmented reality. When scanned using a phone, the QR code on the storefront enables the device to display Picasso’s artwork on the walls inside the space, as if it were the museum itself.

Throughout Richmond, all 33 Starbucks locations will partner with VMFA to promote the exhibition. Each store will display the Picasso QR code on the storefront, and once inside the store, works of art will appear on the walls of Starbucks in a similar fashion to the Philadelphia virtual exhibit. goes live this week with a “Picasso” tab to serve as a home base for the social media technology. Here, art enthusiasts can view Picasso’s works, as well as a Google Map guide to the geo-coordinates laid out in New York, Richmond and D.C.

“The Virginia Museum’s Picasso exhibition is the most ambitious show in the 75-year history of our museum,” VMFA Director Alex Nyerges said. “The occasion of this landmark exhibition is an ideal time to deepen our presence throughout social media. The innovation of the Picasso QR campaign and augmented reality is in keeping with the innovative genius of this master artist.”

Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris, will be on view from February 19 through May 15, 2011 and is co-organized by the Musée National Picasso, Paris and VMFA.

About the Exhibition

  • TITLE: Picasso: Masterpieces from Musée National Picasso, Paris
  • ORGANIZER: Musée National Picasso, Paris
  • DATES: Feb. 19, 2011 – May 15, 2011. VMFA is open seven days a week.
  • CURATOR: Anne Baldassari, Chairman, Musée National Picasso, Paris
  • ITINERARY: Athenaeum Art Museum, Helsinki; Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow; State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg; Seattle Art Museum; VMFA, Fine Art Museums of San Francisco. One additional non-US venue is yet to be announced.
  • ADMISSION: $20; Admission is free for VMFA members and children ages 6 and under. Discounts are available at $16 for seniors 65+, students with ID, groups 10+, and ages 7–17.
  • CATALOG: Full color, 272 pp, 193 illustrations
  • SPONSOR: Altria Group is the presenting sponsor. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
  • VIDEO:


About Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
With a collection of art that spans the globe and more than 5,000 years, plus a wide array of special exhibitions, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) is recognized as one of the top comprehensive art museums in the United States. The museum’s permanent collection encompasses more than 22,000 works of art, including the largest public collection of Fabergé outside Russia and one of the nation’s finest collections of American art. VMFA is home to acclaimed collections of English Silver and Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, British Sporting and Contemporary art, as well as renowned South Asian, Himalayan and African art. In May 2010, VMFA opened its doors to the public after a transformative expansion, the largest in its then 74-year history. Programs include educational activities and studio classes for all ages, plus fun after-hours events. VMFA’s Statewide Partnership program includes traveling exhibitions, artist and teacher workshops, and lectures across the Commonwealth. General admission is always free and the museum is open 365 days a year. For additional information, telephone 804.340.1400 or visit

About The Martin Agency
The Martin Agency offers unified advertising, strategic planning, media, direct response, interactive, data analytics, design and content creation. Clients include the American Cancer Society, BFGoodrich, Discover Financial,, Expedia, GEICO, Hanes, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, PING, Pizza Hut, Sun Life Financial, Tylenol and Walmart.