Someone in web 2.0 land figured out that there aren’t enough art websites. Now, new websites are popping up. Here, I’ll discuss a few of the upcoming sites to watch out for, what you can do with them and whether you’ll want to use them.
Google Art Project
Undoubtedly the highest-profile of the beta art sites thanks largely to the pre-existing fame of Google Street View. Launched February of 2011, the project allows users to virtually walk off the street and into some of the world’s fanciest museums. MoMA, the Tate, the Uffizi and the Hermitage were amongst the first museums added. This April, 137 new museums were introduced to the database, including the White House, SCAD and the National Gallery of Modern Art (India).
So what are all us art lovers gonna do with this thing now that we have it? If you’re anything like me, probably nothing. It’s nice to have high-res images available on a public website, but Google Art Project isn’t really designed for discovery. Too many of the works are blurred out due to copyright restrictions, which means users will default to browsing through a list of works for artists they already know rather than meandering through the museum for art they haven’t seen before.
People also won’t discover new art through search, because as fluidly as the project works with Street View, the company didn’t think to incorporate it into Google results. That’s a missed opportunity.
ArtStack’s still in beta testing, but those who have an invite know that it touts itself as an “easy way to discover and share art with friends and people who love art.” It’s essentially a cross between Tumblr and Pinterest: like Tumblr, the site’s feed aggregates your friend’s posts in a vertical column; like Pinterest, users can organize their findings into categories.
The site’s not a bad idea—I want to be introduced to new art—and sometimes it’s successful. At sign-up, in particular, you get dozens of artworks flung at you at random for potential “stacking”. That doesn’t last long; once you start using the site, the format begins to look more like a tumblr. You’re introduced to works that your friends like, but not much else.
Need a more sophisticated software than ArtStack to introduce you to art? Art.sy recommends art to users based on their preferences and has all kinds of fancy algorthms to do so. They call themselves the Pandora of art. It’s the most ambitious of the new art sites, but it also the one with the furthest to go; after three years of development they’re still in beta, and the matchmaking doesn’t quite feel magical yet.
The site lists 3,000 artists from more than 200 galleries, museums and private collections—approximately 15,000 works in all. That’s a lot of work, but not so much that there aren’t some glaring holes; if you search for Vito Acconci, for instance, no entry on him exists, even though he’s one of the world’s best-known performance artists. Apparently this has to do with copyright issues. The site can’t exactly claim Pandora status without a decent-sized database to work with.
Henri Rousseau, “TheDream”(1910)
Courtesy The Museum of Modern Art