James Bradburne

Museum Innovator – Reaching the public without blockbusters

Reaching the public without blockbusters

British-Canadian architect, designer and museum-specialist James Bradburne is a revolutionary in the museum world. With unorthodox approaches he manages to turn classical, if not dull museums into vibrant centres of culture embraced by local community members of all walks of life. Heading the Strozzi Palace in Florence between 2006 and 2015, Bradburne ‘showed that things were possible in Italy that nobody thought were possible in Italy,’ he told the Observer.

In Florence Bradburne showed that a museum doesn’t need headline-grabbing art works to attract huge amounts of visitors. ‘We turned down a lot of the obvious blockbusters and did very interesting, experimental exhibitions of high emotional power,’ he said. Special family-programmes, free museum previews for taxi drivers, concierges and tourist guides, and dedicated events for other target groups, made the museum a popular place for locals and tourists alike.

Bradburne is currently doing the same for the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, where among other things he commissioned new scarves by fashion house Trussardi to identify the 120 museum guards. The idea: If the staff is happy and proud, visitors will feel good too.

Bradburne has a long track record in the museum world. In 1994 he was asked to help develop Amsterdam’s technology museum, now NEMO. He directed the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt and the Next Generation Foundation in the UK, and designed numerous exhibitions across the world. His unconventional ideas on reaching the crowds are inspiring for anyone reaching out to the public.


Museum, Architecture, Pinacoteca di Brera, NEMO, Milan, Museum Innovator, Netherlands PINC.18