“Art is a conversation starter”

How Late at Tate is changing perceptions of a gallery visit for young people.

Sabine Doolin, Audience Research & Insight Manager at Tate, reviews findings from audience research of Late at Tate.

In 2015 we ran six events and conducted audience research[i] to find out who is coming and to better understand the before, during and afterof a visit to Late at Tate.

Part 3:

At the event – an authentic experience

The experience of attending Late at Tate inspired and removed barriers. Visitors enjoyed the variety of the experience, the buzz and the socially and intellectually stimulating environment. Contrasts and interactivity were valued as was the welcoming and relaxed atmosphere. This atmosphere made it different from a regular gallery experience and removed some of the barriers to visiting such as fear of incompetence and not fitting in. The programme and social dimension made the gallery interesting and un-intimidating.

Lots of different types of people, shows you that art is relevant to everyone.


“If I was to see someone at Late at Tate and started talking to them nobody would bat an eyelid which is quite cool.”

“There was nothing to be scared about. It was an event, like any other event you got to.”

“I felt quite guided by the vibe. I came in and body things were projected and a DJ was playing and I thought yes, this is cool and then was guided to the galleries… I felt supported by the vibe!”

“Plays with your senses, you can be listening to one thing and seeing something different. Does not fit with the conformity of what one expects this space to be. You expect silence and maybe classical music.”

Visitors enjoyed feeling empowered to interpret or comment without being an ‘expert’. Importantly, the experience was thought to be authentically representing youth culture.

“Everything is an experience it is just creating that atmosphere … it opens questions to explore and how you interpret things on your own, is another way how people find out about them because they talk about them, oh I went to this and it was really cool… it is not how you are taught about it at school that you should definitely be experiencing things in a certain way but I wasn’t.”

The programme is considered authentic and relevant to young people’s interests. The peer programming by Tate Collective is successful in providing relevance and authenticity both in attracting the desired audience and a positive visit experience.

It does not feel forced. Some things are done to ‘appeal to young folk’ and it is quite cringy. I kind of expected something like that, a bunch of old people saying ‘come in’.


“You can tell they have young people working on it. It is not old people working on it. They have people who are in tune with our culture.”

Opportunities for improvement are around orientation and context. A desire for more information about the artworks to facilitate access to the collection and clearer orientation show that we need to keep in mind that we attract new visitors who are not familiar with the building and the collection.

“More description about what we are looking for. I am such a philistine. I would like to understand what the artist is thinking.”

“I like tours because it gives me context… I don’t have time to read before I come to the museum. In order to get meaning I need context… If there are a lot of young people in the group I feel more comfortable, if there are a lot of older people in the group who know what the paintings are all about, I feel more uncomfortable.”

“Art is a conversation starter. You want to know what the intentions of the artist are and if there was someone in every room to explain, that would be very nice.”


[i] The research was conducted by Sphere Insights (Angela Diakopoulou) using a mixed quantitative and qualitative methodology with 824 face-to-face surveys at the events, 30 in-depth friendship group interviews, one focus group and several depth telephone interviews.

Images copyright Dan Weill