Tuesday, July 21, 2020

A Digital Renaissance for Online Art Collections

It's become very apparent that in a world starved of external stimuli, people turned to art online for a visual feast. Covid-19 has changed a LOT of things and art is not least among those activities that will be changed forever.

Bye bye, blockbusters: can the art world adapt to Covid-19? - back in April - suggested that online might well become the NEW norm for consuming art.
“We’re going to talk in terms of before and after. The virus will change a lot of things for art.” Frances Morris, director of Tate Modern,
The Art Galleries and Museums are now re-opening (slowly).

However, it's noteworthy that the old world of viewing in art galleries has changed in a very marked way. They are having to be
  • very, very careful with pre-booking, 
  • choreographed routes through an exhibition and 
  • lots and lots of sanitiser.
I think it's very definitely going to be a long time before we again see the usual hordes associated with blockbusters. What we might get instead is
  • a more civilised viewing of an exhibition or a gallery - so long as you don't want to wander from a prescribed route or retrace your steps!
  • a continuing upward trend in viewing art online - now people are more aware of what is out there.

If you don't know what's online

For those of you who are not aware of what is out there, there's a lot more than in the past - although there have been some sad losses along the way.

Here's a list of places where you can view art online.

I'm an inveterate surfer and I know there's a lot more out there. I'm going to keep coming back and adding to this list - in future posts. (see the side column for how to subscribe to this blog)

In the meanwhile, you can get started.........

Tate: ways of viewing art in the permanent collection online

Online Art Websites (i.e. online is the norm)

  • Google Arts and Culture which has interesting offshoots such as
    • Collections - at museums around the world. One wonders whether Google outdoes the museum's own website when it comes to viewing art given you can get in VERY close to some artwork on Google's website
    • Art Selfie
Install the app, take a selfie and search thousands of artworks to see if any look like you.
  • Web Gallery of Art created by two retired Hungarians Emil Krén and Daniel Marx. This website has been aroundsince 1996 and looks precisely the same as when I first visited many moon ago. It has an  alphabetic list of artists giving basic information on artists
  • WikiArt.org - Visual Art Encyclopedia - nearly - but not quite - as good as Google for high resolution images. However the selection is more boring. Essentially a vehicle for shifting reproduction oil paintings
  • Art cyclopedia: The Fine Art Search Engine - another ancient website which does the job if you are searching for art or want to explore an art movement but isn't the best at delivering an indulgent visual experience
  • Art UK - the digitisation of the public collections of art in the UK's art galleries and museums and other public collections

Sadly, The Athenaeum has disappeared - see Goodbye to the Atheneaum Art Database? I keep testing the original URL but keep getting the sorry this site cannot be loaded message

The remainder of this post is devoted to some of the main museums in the UK and USA. Starting this post has made me realise - yet again - how much progress has been made in making art more accessible online.

Take this to be the first of a number of future posts which will explore the online art offerings of different art galleries and museums around the world

- because this is going to be a major way of consuming art for some time to come......

Art Galleries and Museums - UK

Each museum takes a different approach to how they make their collection accessible - which makes it somewhat irritating as the first thing you need to do is make sure you understand what is available and what unique method for making it available and accessible is adopted by this gallery!

However I'd added more than few pointers and examples below....

National Gallery

  • the Collection has over 2,600 paintings in its Collection in its digital database - which is a LOT less than some so I'm rather surprised they're boasting about it!
Highlights from the National Gallery Collection

Stories: Our latest films, features and peeks behind the scenes – you bring the tea, we'll bring the art

Tate Britain

Tate holds the national collection of British art from 1500 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art.

The Tate chooses to define its collection via a number of different categories within the Art and Artists link (see below). So for example, it tells you there are 77,830 results - and of these 2,894 have been awarded an in-depth perspective - but then when you look you find that a number of these are marketing initiatives or thematic approach of the oddball variety - rather than an in-depth look at a topic in art history. i.e. up the Cutesie end rather than the authoritative - which is what I thought it would be. Maybe it needs a different title?

Art Galleries and Museums - USA

The Met Collection | The Metropolitan Museum of Art 

[Note: The Met Fifth Avenue is planning to reopen on August 29, pending state and city approval.]
This is one of the leading and most impressive art collections online. I also like the way they present their collection online to the public.  It's not patronising and is educational. In particular I like the way they promote access to the "open access artworks" i.e. all those in the public domain.

Enjoy more than 375,000 hi-res images of public-domain works from the collection.
search the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum

Meet the Primers: Our buildings may be closed, but there's plenty for you to explore. Primers give you a quick and immersive look at select exhibitions.

Museum of Modern Art

The Museum which reopened after its refurb. precisely one day after I left New York last Autumn!

The website is very stark and monochromatic.
  • MOMA: The Collection - not very helpful re guiding you through what's available or even options for your search query
  • MOMA: Artists This is a list of artists with work in our collection or who have been included in a MoMA exhibition. It is updated continually.  There are 26,417 artists online
Exhibitions from our founding in 1929 to the present are available online.
These pages are updated continually.
  • MOMA: Exhibitions History - Most surprising is the fact they have all the exhibitions online. Its database includes exhibition catalogues, primary documents, installation views, and an index of participating artists. (I'm left wondering if this was the major project while the Museum was closed for its refurbishment - because this is the major gap in most galleries' online offerings)

National Gallery of Art

The West Building, Ground Floor galleries are now open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Free, timed passes are required and released every Monday at 10:00 a.m. for the following week. The Sculpture Garden remains open, with limitations.
Explore the works currently on view in the West Building Ground Floor galleries, a showcase 19th- and 20th-century sculpture; medieval, Renaissance, and baroque sculpture and decorative arts; a selection of impressionist still life paintings.
Suggested categories for accessing the Collection 

The John Paul Getty Museum

The collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum comprises Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art from the Neolithic to Late Antiquity; European art—including illuminated manuscripts, paintings, drawings, sculpture, and decorative arts—from the Middle Ages to the early twentieth century; and international photography from its inception to the present day.
The John Paul Getty Museum - Collection Categories

  • The Collection - links include:
    • Paintings - over 400 notable European paintings produced before 1900. 
    • Drawings - nearly 850 pieces - forming a representative collection of Western European drawing between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries.
  • It has the same approach to explaining each category
    • about the collection
    • recent acquisitions
    • blog posts
    • how to contact people looking after that part of the collection
    • related publications
    • how to access works of art on the Google Arts and Culture Database e.g. Eighteenth-Century Pastel Portraits

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