Tate Britain Swaps Iconic Paintings For Powerful Words In New Ad Campaign

U.K. gallery hopes to attract new visitors by unlocking the stories behind paintings.


The conventional way to attract visitors to an art gallery is to create marketing materials that give a taste of the visual delights on offer in the hope they will want to see more.


London’s Tate Britain, which houses the national collection of British art from 1500 to the present day, has launched a campaign that seeks to turn that idea on its head. A series of three text-only ads aims to tell the stories behind some well-known individual works of art in order to prompt people to reappraise what they think they know about them.

John Everett Millais’s Ophelia

The campaign, created by agency Grey London, focuses on three artworks; Francis Bacon’s 1972 Triptych, a 16th century British School Portrait of Elizabeth I and Millais’s Ophelia. In each case, copy has been written to give some insight into the artwork in question.


Also in each case, the typography has been manipulated to reflect the emotion present in the respective artwork. For example, for Ophelia the typography drifts and meanders, almost falling off the page, and for the Bacon work it is fractured and unsteady.

The intention is to tell relevant stories related to each painting and, as Tate CMO, Rob Baker puts it in a statement, “…to offer a broader audience new ‘ways in’ to the art we present at Tate Britain by creating cultural relevance.”

The ads will appear on London Underground poster sites, in U.K. press, on the Tate Britain website, and free postcard versions available to the public at Tate Britain starting next week.

About the author

Louise Jack is a London-based journalist, writer and editor with a background in advertising and marketing. She has written for several titles including Marketing Week, Campaign and The Independent.