Andy Warhol once said, “I wish that everyone would like everyone.” And now you can… on Facebook. Art and the Internet were practically made for each other – not just because of Warhol – but because the Internet allows art practitioners to interact with their audience daily.
There’s always been the perception that art is “snobby” or “elitist,” as well as inaccessible, except in private collections or museums. The impact of the Internet is that this reputation no longer applies.
Major museums have extensively utilized the Internet to expand their audience. Most famous museum collections went online by the mid-2000s, which was a really big deal at the time. They have hundreds of thousands of objects, and cataloging them online was probably a painful enterprise. Ultimately, however, museum websites with full collections are invaluable resources; they often have high-resolution images and special zoom tools. It’s suddenly easy to see a Pollock close-up, as long as you look online.
Then, museums realized that tours were so last-century. The Brooklyn Museum introduced the first iPhone museum app in 2009, and museums haven’t looked back. My favorite is MoMA’s (that might be because I love their collections), but the Louvre’s iPhone app also has tons of features: the entire collection is accessible, with commentaries and close-ups for selected works. Some of them are meant to serve as tour substitutes (because who wants to wait for one?), while others are just a way to access the collection via your phone.
Social media is the next frontier in museum public relations and it’s finally possible to directly communicate with curators, artists, and other art professionals via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more. I think the Guggenheim has done the best job, by far, in terms of interacting with their audience via Twitter (@guggenheim). If you tag them, they will probably tweet back. The Guggenheim also just sponsored a program called “YouTube Play” to encourage people to make video art and put it on YouTube, elevating the entire medium. Most major museums don’t go this far, but most do have Twitters, Facebook accounts, etc. – and many have started to explore the possibilities of geotagging and QR codes.
My personal favorite Internet app for museums isn’t even by museums: Google Art Project was super-hyped when it came out, and deservedly. You can click around galleries, get zoomed-in views of works, and it feels like you’re actually in the museum… when you’re really lying around in bed. Incredible.
Start-ups and Everything Else
The developments going on outside museums are perhaps more exciting than what’s happening in them. Art start-ups are suddenly everywhere and there’s also a huge list of websites that create original content to introduce more people to art.
Artbabble.org is a platform for video art, but also includes video tours of major architecture and interviews. It’s still developing, but there are already thousands of videos of content on the site, even though it’s still developing. It’s a great source if you ever need anything related to video art or buildings.
The start-up race is intense. Exhibition A is a site based on the Gilt/Hautelook model, which is short-term sales of prestigious, artist-licensed prints. They’ve sold prints by major artists, like contemporary art enfant terrible Terence Koh, and their sleek UI and low prices (most prints go for under $250, which is apparently not a lot of money) make it really popular.
Also, there are suddenly a few start-ups dedicated to renting art for a monthly fee. Their philosophy is basically “try before you buy,” and is modeled after Netflix. NYC-based Artsicle and Cambridge-based TurningArt seem to have the most funding and hype, but there are definitely more, either in the works, or just out of the limelight. If they’re successful, they’ll revolutionize the art market, making art easier to attain (via the Internet) and giving prospective buyers the chance to view the art long-term before they buy. Basically, it’ll be a win-win for the consumer.
Art.sy is the last start-up that’s really fascinating. It tries to determine a user’s art tastes through works they’ve liked before. It’s kind of like Pandora, but for art. Basically, it’s awesome. Or it will be once it’s released (soon, apparently!).
Social media has completely changed the landscape of the art world in an incredibly short period of time. In the five to ten years since the Internet emerged as a potent force, art has become so much more egalitarian. It’s become easier for people to connect to art, and new companies and social networks will only simplify that process more.