A playful project by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art uses cellphone texts and art and turns them into a viral hit.
Can you trade a smiley face for a Picasso? The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has given you the chance to try.
During the past few weeks, the museum has invited people to text the number 57251 with the phrase “send me” followed by a word or an emoji — send me a robot, for instance. The museum texts back with a related image from its collection.
The project, “Send Me SFMOMA,” has been an ingenious, playful way to inject some rarefied culture into an everyday habit. And for art lovers, it has unearthed some unexpected artworks, long hidden in storage, along the way.
Begun quietly last month, the project has become a viral hit, with more than 2 million text messages delivered since Sunday alone, said Keir Winesmith, head of web and digital platforms for SFMOMA. (The service is free.)
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It’s far more popular than the museum ever imagined, with people indulging in a long back-and-forth, binge texting. And it’s revealed something surprising about its users — about how, and when, they want to interact with art, and how much they crave a personal connection with cultural authority.
Can texting a museum be the start of a meaningful cultural conversation? SFMOMA thinks so.
At a time “public trust in institutions is very low,” Winesmith said, “Send Me” offers another kind of relationship. “We want it to feel like you’re communicating with a friend.”
A potentially uplifting friend, at that: Most of the texts yearned for positivity, requesting love, flowers and happiness, he said.
Inspiration was another big search term, along with appeals for hope, peace and joy. But sadness ranked in the top 20 searches, too.
The top emoji requests included the robot, the heart, the rainbow, “and, of course, poop,” Winesmith said. “And…