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Freer-Sacker Digitization Project: A Modest Suggestion

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The other day, the Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian announced that it had digitized its entire collection and was putting it all online for all to see and use--with more than 90 percent of the images in high-definition resolution and without copyright restrictions for noncommercial uses--as of Jan. 1, 2015. This is good news, and I applaud the initiative. But another sentence in the press release stopped me: “The vast majority of the 40,000 artworks have never before been seen by the public…” Now, I know full well that many … [Read more...]

No Other Word For It: Fundraising Failure

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The Phillips Collection crowdsourcing effort, an attempt to raise $45,000 in a month to support a website abut Jacob Lawrence, has failed miserably. When the drive ended on Dec. 10, only $2,988--a mere 7 percent of the goal--had been pledged. And that took 41 supporters, for an average contribution of about $73. All of the background is here, in my previous post on the subject. Why would this campaign fail? I can think of several possibilities, or a combination of some of them: --Not enough visibility for the campaign. I checked the … [Read more...]

NPG Effort Raises Good Question Re: Crowdsourcing

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About six weeks ago--and I missed it--the National Portrait Gallery started a crowd-sourcing initiative called Recognize that pitted three works in the collection against one another and asked the public to choose one. The other day, the Washington Post raised questions about it--appropriately, I think. The whole exercise seemed, my words not the Post's, like a stunt in search of a mission. Let's  begin with the NPG's description: This November, the National Portrait Gallery will unveil a special crowdsourced wall in our galleries, called … [Read more...]

Does Crowdfunding Work? Not So Far

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Back on Nov. 6, the Phillips Collection sent me an email about a worthy effort: it had started a crowd-funding campaign for a micro-website about Jacob Lawrence. It would feature "unpublished interviews between the artist and museum curators in 1992 and 2000, including one conducted just prior to the artist’s death." The point, obviously, was to engage people in learning about Lawrence, particularly because the Phillips plans to present the exhibition Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series (one image at left) in fall, 2016, following its presence … [Read more...]

Museums “Adapt To the Digital Age” But…

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All in all, I thought the lead article in Sunday's NYTimes special section on the visual arts--Museums Morph Digitally--was good (it was written by my friend, Steve Lohr), though I wasn't crazy about the line that " museum curators and administrators ...talk of ...the importance of a social media strategy and a “digital first” mind-set." Maybe digital is second, but surely not first, except perhaps to promote their actual collections. Plus, the whole article did not once use the word "selfie," a bane of museums, imho. Except at the … [Read more...]

Here’s What Art Museums Need: A Selfie Ban

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That's not my idea, just in case you were rolling your eyes. It's the brainstorm of U.K. Arts Council chairman Sir Peter Bazalgette; my only concern is the limit he placed on it -- one hour a day.  Just kidding.  But Bazalgette has a point. Neither he nor I are against photography in museums; I take my own photos all the time in museums. Most of the time, what other people are doing doesn't bother me a whit. But you see those photos of the Mona Lisa gallery at the Louvre (as at left), with some people riding piggyback on others to get a … [Read more...]

Take Control of The Tate, With A Robot, After Dark

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If an interactive experience with art is all the rage these days -- and to some people it is -- the latest project (I don't know what else to call it) at the Tate in London is both in vogue and new. I think -- at least I've not heard of anything like this. It's called After Dark and it just won the inaugural IK Prize, which is going to be awarded annually by the Tate to a project that "celebrates digital creativity and seeks to widen access to art through the application of digital technology." (That's per the press release.) After … [Read more...]

The Future Of Art Book Publishing Is Here

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Wow! Today I had a look at the first digital-only publication of the Museum of Modern Art,* and I can really see -- even after only a short time of experimentation -- how much digital technology can do for art books. The book, Picasso: The Making of Cubism 1912-1914, comes in iPad or PDF form. Here's the official description, from the press release: Edited by Anne Umland, The Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Curator of Painting and Sculpture, MoMA, and Blair Hartzell, independent art historian and curator, it embraces the innovative features … [Read more...]

Try This NYT Web App To Track Art Coverage Trends

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Who is mentioned more often in pages of The New York Times from its start in the 1850s through 2011? Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci? Van Gogh, Degas or Gauguin? Joan Mitchell, Louise Bourgeois or Mary Cassatt? Impressionism or Modernism? Monet or Manet? You can see for yourself how the Times chronicled art trends -- or any other trends -- with a new web app called Chronicle. It allows you and me to tap into "Visualizing language usage in New York Times news coverage throughout its history" to discern … [Read more...]

Museum-Going: Getting Even More Virtual

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Last fall, I made a note to myself about an app made for the landmark exhibition at Houghton Hall in England, country home of Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745), which brought back about 60 paintings from the Hermitage and elsewhere -- they'd been sold, but were reunited for the first time in more than 200 years. The full story is here. The app is relevant again because soon the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will open a national tour here of  Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House -- it's not the same as the real thing, but this … [Read more...]

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