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How the Web is changing art and art appreciation

   By John Pavlik
Special to CNN Interactive

This news analysis was written for CNN Interactive.


In this story:

Hanging art without walls

A new way of taking it all in


(CNN) -- Living in New York City, I have no shortage of art to enjoy, from the galleries of Soho to the art museums of 5th Avenue, from Broadway theater to Greenwich Village performance art.

Now, anyone anywhere can find a wide range of artistic expression on the World Wide Web.

It is not necessarily the same art you will find in the off-line world. The Internet and digital media are exerting several dramatic influences on the art world and those who appreciate it.

Art institutions are undergoing a kind of restructuring in the online space. Art itself is changing. And these developments are transforming the relationships among artists, arts organizations and the art-loving public.

Hanging art without walls

Wherever you live, you can visit Location One online without having to trek to 26 Greene Street in Greenwich Village in New York. And you can visit the Alternative Art Gallery online without visiting San Francisco.

You would, of course, probably still enjoy visiting these galleries in person. It is just no longer required.

Along with many other galleries, they have put big parts of their collections and exhibitions online.

You can see digital versions of paintings, drawings and more. You can watch videos of artists and art critics commenting on the collections or on issues in the arts. You can participate in online discussions with other patrons and even with artists themselves.

You would probably still enjoy visiting these galleries in person. It's just no longer required.

At, I recently enjoyed a video interview of Meredith Monk, a composer, singer, filmmaker and director/choreographer. Monk, interviewed by a University of Texas professor, discussed how the process of creating art for the virtual space is different -- notably that there are fewer constraints on the artist.


Many art museums have now put at least some their real-world offerings online.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has an extensive site. It features information on current exhibitions that include beautiful illustrations and brief explanations. The site includes online images of the more than 2,200 works in its European Painters collection.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York has only handful of its paintings online, but its site is well designed and the selections are well chosen. Among the paintings featured are Vincent van Gogh's "The Starry Night," Paul Gauguin's "The Moon and the Earth," and Henri Rousseau's "The Dream."

You will also find audio clips and transcripts of detailed discussions of the art. Other art forms can be seen, too, including photographs such as Andy Warhol's "Jackie III" portrait.

And, as at the Met site, those interested in a copy of the art can order a poster -- and a lot more -- at the online store.

Finally, some galleries are trying to take things even further. After 25 years of physical existence, the Alternative Museum of New York closed its Soho space and moved entirely online in June.

A new way of taking it all in

Online art can also engage the audience in new ways.

Consider the Virtual Projects at the Guggenheim Museum Web site. The "Brandon" exhibit is a stunning interactive visual display launched in installments over time.

Art sites also make planning excursions easier.

A part of the exhibition, called "Bigdoll," is an interface that invites people to upload their own images. It is done in the spirit of the "open systems" architecture of the alternative computer operating system known as "Linux." No hints on the picture I uploaded.

Art sites also make planning excursions easier.

This summer I have been on a month-long program in Singapore, and I used my laptop computer and a high-speed Internet connection to plan a museum visit for my family.

Three Singapore museums with Web sites -- the Asian Civilisations Museum, the Singapore Art Museum, and the Singapore History Museum -- looked worth at least one in-person visit.

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My wife and I have two young children, so we were especially interested in exhibits that would appeal to them. I found just what I was looking for at the Singapore History Museum: a 3-D exhibit on the history of Singapore, beginning with the arrival of Great Britain's Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 and his historic meeting with local chieftain, Temenggong Abdul Rahman.

As a lover of the arts, I had thought I had found my true home in New York City. But having delved into the world of art online, I might like staying a little longer in Singapore -- or anywhere else.

Dr. John V. Pavlik is executive director of the Center for New Media at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism where he is also a professor. He writes frequently on new media technology, journalism and health communication. His latest book, "Journalism and New Media," is forthcoming in 2000 from Columbia University Press. Pavlik is married with two children; the family lives in New York.

RELATED STORIES: arts & style
CNN Interactive: Technology

Alternative Art Gallery
The Alternative Museum
Asian Civilisations Museum
Guggenheim Museum: Virtual Projects
Location One
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Museum of Modern Art
Singapore Art Museum
Singapore History Museum

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