the website exhibition old and new

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Published on December 15th, 2011 | by Naina Singh


The Website Exhibition: Old and New

Open, explore, type to enter, and browse; ever notice how the Internet’s functioning, even jargon, is quite similar to that of a museum, where websites appropriate the role of continuously changing exhibits. Moreover, with the Internet steadily acquiring a past, websites have become historical databases and locations where this past continues to surface, as long as it is deemed relevant by Google or Bing. In the art world, knowingly or unknowingly, this phenomenon of virtual longevity has led to the rise of online exhibitions, where the artworks never have to be shipped, mounted, dismantled, and sheepishly monitored by security guards.
One of the best online exhibitions was created in lieu of the Monet exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris in late 2010. For the virtual component, the exhibition designers were faced with a both a challenge and an opportunity; how could they affect a lasting impression on the viewers through the artworks of one of the most ubiquitous artists of Impressionism? How could they ask viewers to look past the commercialization of Monet? (You can buy impressionist laptop sleeves and coffee mugs).
The answer lay in the development of a virtual exhibition component that reminded us that the brilliance of Monet cannot ever become part of the everyday vernacular. The exhibition takes us on a journey through an impressionistic world set against the backdrop of a canvas. In this journey, which begins with the spill of Monet’s inkwell, we travel through the medium of color as it makes it’s way across a virtual albeit realistic canvas. A series of gradual and beautiful spreads of color transform before our eyes into changing land/city-scapes , where we see ink-cloud shaped sections of Monet’s paintings.
Moreover, playing in the background and transporting us to another era, is a wonderful piece by Debussy. Thus, as we glide from from one image to the next, we are given a chance to view not an impressionist painting, but an entire impressionist world! And all along the way we are encouraged to take part through a series of interactive sections, some of which involve waving and even blowing air into our microphones!
If impressionist artwork of the 19th century can be so wonderfully exhibited online, surely there are contemporary art mediums that can be displayed within the virtual bounds of a website. Maybe digital and new media art, which requires digital space, not wall space. This is where Art Micro-Patronage comes in, digitally.
Art Micro-Patronage is an experimental online exhibition space featuring monthly curated shows of digital, new media, and intermedia work. As visitors navigate through the exhibitions, they are encouraged to become micro-patrons of the arts, associating their appreciation of the works with small monetary values.
In Art Micro-Patronage, a visitor can navigate through a series of artworks, all of which have been adapted to the website format. Their current exhibit is titled Dériving An Imaginary City: Virtual Psychogeographies, which “looks at the use of digital tools in mapping the interplay between psychological states and urban environments.” The exhibition was surprisingly easy to follow and some of the artworks were truly interactive, while others were video exhibits displayed via YouTube or Vimeo.
A nice twist to Art Micro-Patronage is that instead of simply liking an artwork, viewers can become micro-patrons by pledging a small sum of money (.50 cents to 20 dollars) to a particular artwork. The use of crowd-funding to support an artist is not entirely novel but Art Micro-Patronage removes the intermediaries. Moreover, viewers may be more likely to pay for completed project rather than one that is still in the conception phase. Yet, the figure for the amount of money pledged to the exhibition is not exactly stellar: $83 dollars. In due time, perhaps teems of micro-patrons will be able to make difference at the macro level. Nevertheless, Art Micro-Patronage has some intriguing exhibitions planned for the upcoming year!
In both the Monet and the Art Micro-Patronage exhibitions, the website exhibition format was employed in a manner that enhanced a visitor’s interaction with the artwork. While the Monet exhibition used the virtual aspect to draw visitors and facilitate interaction, Art Micro-Patronage is simply using the medium of the artwork to display the artwork! And as the Monet exhibition continues to exist beyond the physical, tangible exhibition, it has become encased in the museum that is the World Wide Web, while Art-Micro Patronage is the latest gallery that raises money through the very act of a visitor opening, exploring, entering and browsing their space.

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About the Author

Naina Singh is a first year Master of Arts Management student at Carnegie Mellon University. Before coming to CMU, Naina studied Management, Art History, and Italian at Indiana University Bloomington. Naina's interests lie in the realm of strategic consulting for arts organizations and the visual arts. She is also interested in studying the role of arts and cultural organizations in shaping societal and global values. She has had prior work experience at Religare Arts Initiative, an arts organization in New Delhi, where she was the gallery and social media intern. Naina enjoys visiting museums, art fairs, galleries, and believes that everyone else should too!

  • james barkley

    In a school system that is at some distance from the opportunity for my students to be able to view major art exhibits and events first hand the access that is presented by virtual exhibits is a significant. Though one would prefer to view and interact with the works of art within a one one context these advancements in technology provide the student with an opportunity to view and study art at fingers touch without leaving their seats.  Virtual exhibitions such as the Monet provide both possibility for independant study and resource for development of instructional strategies that make it excitiing for instructors as well.

    Thank you for the post and information,
    Jim Barkley 

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