Filtering the web for art market technology news so you don’t have to! Here are some items of interest over the past few weeks.
- Fast Company profiles a number of startups targeting the intersection of authentication and display of digital art (For Digital Art, Watermarks Aim To Bring More Aura—And A Hotter Market). Depict integrates authentication and watermarking software with a HD display device, while Electric Objects is developing digital art frames. Whether watermarking technology could help the digital art market develop a mature secondary market is discussed. The article concludes with an observation from Jacob Ciocco, a New York-based digital artist: “Art is about always questioning value within a contemporary context. And if a certain type of value is defined—watermarking—then another artist will always find a way to subvert that. It’s what art does really well,”
- The Association of Art Museum Directors has published “Next Practices in Digital and Technology”, a collection of 41 US-based case studies of the application of digital technology in a museums context covering a wide range of topics: 3d printing, access programs, apps, collections management, education, in-gallery technology, interpretation, membership, multimedia, open data, publications, research, social media, and visitor services.
- The Guardian is running an occasional series on “young creatives doing interesting and innovative things at the intersection of art and technology.” The latest piece is a commissioned interview with the CEO of Cuseum, one of a growing list of location-aware apps for museums and exhibitions, including some pointers to other uses of technology in museums.
Recently the Met Museum announced a partnership with Khan Academy to make Met-produced educational resources available online. Khan Academy’s global reach was an important consideration in establishing the partnership, according to the Met’s CEO Thomas P. Campbell:
“Khan Academy is an impressive, forward-thinking partner with an extraordinary vision to reach learners everywhere. Together we can build on the Met’s robust program of online content to engage a worldwide community. I want the Met’s audience to reflect the global breadth of our collection, and this collaboration will bring us significantly closer to achieving that goal.”
Through various initiatives run out of its Paris-based Cultural Institute, Google has been extending its reach into the museums sector by building on the infrastructure of projects such as Google Art and Open Gallery, as well as core platforms such as StreetView and YouTube. On December 10, Google announced their latest offering, inviting galleries to take advantage of a museum-specific mobile app platform. According to Google
The platform allows museums to create a simple but powerful mobile app, based on Google’s technology including Street View and YouTube. Without resorting to expensive technical help, museums now can tell their stories.
The press release concludes
The Internet no longer plays just a minor role in diffusing museum knowledge. It has become a major force, allowing museums to expand and strengthen their reach. We look forward to deepening our partnership with museums that see digital media as core to their mission of education and inspiring people about art and culture.
The motivations behind the ‘partnerships’ offered by enormous technology companies such as Google are often called into question. In a 2013 Wired article (See Some Art While You Can — Google Will Eventually Replace Museums) artists João Enxuto and Erica Love put their concerns as follows
Google is single-handedly redefining the public sphere of art spectatorship in much the same way that it is redefining the mapping of public space. As screen interfaces become a primary means for the disembodied spectator to access artworks and as museums give up the responsibility of digitization (of the commons) to a centralized database, Google Art Project will in turn dominate the search for art in the way that it dominates internet search.
This latest venture may be low risk for smaller institutions wanting to experiment in the mobile apps (for Android) space. Google already has a tightly integrated “content ecosystem” (see John Blossom’s 2014 Google update below) and it’s only going to get tighter as Google recoups its investments through monetization. Potential museum partners would be well-advised to pore over the small print and ensure any partnership includes a clear exit strategy.
What lessons could the art market – particularly galleries – learn from the innovative and increasingly second-generation digital projects taking place in many parts of the museum sector? In “Post-web technology: what comes next for museums?” published on The Guardian Culture Professionals Network, Mia Ridge and Danny Birchall list a number of digital experiments and research projects which museums are undertaking, such as:
- Lightweight low-budget mobile tours using WordPress and GPS technology to deliver rich experiences on a limited budget
- Experiments with wearable and augmented technology
- An EU-funded project to investigate embedding digital content in ‘smart objects’
- A shared innovation model for smaller institutions through multi-participant projects
These topics and more will be discussed in November’s UKMW14: ‘Museums Beyond the Web’ conference organized by the UK Museums Computer Group (@ukmcg). Ridge and Birchall’s article concludes with a statement that should resonate for anyone working in the digital art world:
Through projects like these, what we used to think of as a “digital” mindset is starting to become widespread in some cultural heritage organisations. The ethos of user-centred design and rapid iteration associated with digital projects is crossing from the digital realm into the physical environment.
- “Post-web technology: what comes next for museums?” [The Guardian Culture Professionals Network, Friday 3 October 2014]
This week the Getty Research Institute announced the availability of 5,400 high resolution digitizations from its collection “with more to come”. The total number of images available via the Open Content programme now exceeds 10,000. As well as artworks, Getty is extending the programme to include:
other material critical to the study of art history, including artists’ books and letters, stockbooks of famous art dealers, documentary photographs of art and monuments in situ from around the world, important historical treatises, and archives of famous artists, photographers, and collectors.
Digital technologies allow startup companies to provide services in the online art market that would have been uneconomical or simply impossible in an offline business model.
One example of this type of digital innovation is Vastari.com (@Vastariupdate). Launched online earlier this year, Vastari is seeking to create a marketplace where private collectors and museum exhibition curators around the world connect in order to negotiate exhibition loans. Continue reading