The MMIAM Journey

A blog about the Master of Management
in International Arts Management program

A Glimpse into Academic Research

The Appropriation Process

Some of our ticket buyers are experienced, they often go to see shows or exhibitions and are subscribers or friends of the museum. On the other hand, others rarely have  the chance to spend time in our theaters or museums. How then does one or the other receive the artistic experience? What is the process involved in either of these situations? We call it the appropriation process.

Every spectator or visitor arrives with what we can call their nest. This nest of knowledge about what we offer can be completely empty or very full. From the start of this journey the person goes through a process of appropriation, moving from what is familiar towards the less familiar. Psychologically, they look for what they know, first in the place—its environment or the other people present—then during the performance or the visit. This first process is called nesting.

Then comes the second phase called investigating where the person looks for what is new and gives meaning to what they see. This investigative phase serves to allow the spectator to gain a foothold in the new experience. In relation to the later, it is equivalent to a virtual discussion between the artist and the recipient. All this new information is then brought into the nest in a final step called stamping. They come to fill the nest a little more.

During the period of investigation, the person can reach a state of flow, a more or less long moment where reality disappears and where the spectator loses the notion of time. The more there are of these moments, the more the visitor will experience a feeling of fullness and the more their level of satisfaction will increase.

In the case of an experienced person, the processes are done more quickly than in the case of a novice. In any case, at the end of the show or visit, this nest will be a little more full for the next visit.

Person colorfully dressed watching works by Jill Mulleady at the 2019 Venice Biennale
The Spectator (at Jill Mulleady’s expo at the Venice Biennale 2019). Photo: Andrea Castelli on Flicker. Creative Commons license.

The manager can help the novice spectator whose nest is empty or almost empty by filling it with useful cues or codes to facilitate this appropriation process. This can be done during a pre-concert speech for example, or through communication preceding the visit. This operation is even more important for new people especially for those who come to an art form for the first time. For example, someone who has never seen contemporary dance may be completely disoriented during the show and not understand what the choreographer is saying. Adequate preparation will give this spectator the tools to navigate  the investigating phase and will increase the chances that they will carry out this silent discussion with the artist. Their level of appreciation for their evening will be equally meaningful.

The phenomenon of appropriation is therefore present in everyone, it starts from the nest which is used to take one’s bearings, continues with a phase of investigation to find what is new, to finally give meaning to the experience by storing it in its nest to serve as a starting point for the next occasion.


François Colbert is MMIAM Codirector, Remi-Marcoux Chair in Arts Management, author of the book Marketing Culture and the Arts published in 15 langages along its five editions.


Source: Caru, Antonella, and Bernard Cova. 2005. “The Impact of Service Elements on the Artistic Experience: The Case of Classical Music Concerts.” International Journal of Arts Management 7, no. 2 (Winter): 39–55.

Browse our abridged research articles here.