There has been a lot of talk on Artist Marketing Resources about ways in which technology can be used to connect creators with buyers and new audiences, but not as much has been said about how that same technology is actually impacting how art is being created in the first place. In her article today, e-learning expert Rachel Higgins looks at ways in which university fine arts programs are utilizing cutting edge computer-based programs.
In creating and utilizing the new models proposed by Cantor, new technologies could provide a significant service. Founded in 2008, ArtWeLove specializes in making and selling prints of contemporary artwork, working with 30 artists, including photographers, painters and multimedia artists to produce high-quality, limited edition prints of their work. “High culture at an affordable price is exciting to people, especially when they can access it on the internet and don’t have to come to New York”, says ArtWeLove founder Laurence Lafforgue. “Artists are dealing with things that are very important, dealing with things in our culture,” says Lafforgue. “It’s a completely new artistic production we are creating, a new kind of production for the 21st century.” For students, this can mean greater and simpler access to modern art, much of which could serve as an integral segue into a greater understanding of the importance of fine art in society.
In terms of traditional fine art education, however, the most promising recent innovation is perhaps Art.sy, an extensive free repository of fine-art images and an online art appreciation guide that went live early in October 2012. After two years of private testing and millions of dollars from investors, the site is hoping to become a source of pleasure, discovery and education for visual art, similar to the way people use Pandora to explore music or Netflix for film.
Art.sy has already found its share of skeptics in both art and technology communities, who question whether digital analytics should be applied to visual art. Yale University School of Art dean Robert Storr is yet unconvinced.“It depends so much on the information, who’s doing the selection, what the criteria are, and what the cultural assumptions behind those criteria are,” says Storr.
However, many in the art and education community are deeply invested in the project. Upon debuting to the general public, Art.sy has already digitized 20,000 images into its growing reference system. Lead by Matthew Israel, PhD in art and archaeology at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, a team of a dozen art historians refer to the building of the reference system as The Art Genome Project, as they decide what codes to use for each piece and how they should be applied. Labels for each piece denote objective qualities such as historical period and region in which the work was created, as well as features such as style and categories like Cubism, Flemish portraiture or photography.
Other categories are more subjective, as Art.sy’s curators might attach terms like “globalization” to give ideological context. With the Art Genome Project, Art.sy’s goal is to make connections among artworks that are seemingly disparate, with a catalog encompassing pieces from the British Museum, the National Gallery in Washington, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and others. Recently, Seb Chan, director of digital and emerging media for recent Art.sy partner Cooper-Hewitt asserted sites like Art.sy are not meant to replace museums or galleries, but instead to help art neophytes to stretch the boundaries of their taste. “You shouldn’t need to be a scholar to discover works of art that you might be fascinated by,” says Chan. “The Art Genome is another way of creating serendipitous connections.”
While technology should not be used as a crutch or a replacement for the tangible, physical elements of art education, it can be an excellent supplement to traditional methods and philosophies. Technology democratizes the world of fine art by allowing anyone with a WiFi connection to at least acclimate themselves to the norms of history of the classic as well as modern art world. In an age where most young people are far more familiar with consumer software and computers that with gallery books or museum archives, technology can serve as natural introduction to a wider world of rich cultural history.