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Tech has been marginalizing museums. Can it now be used to save them?by Daniel Bean
TechTrends

WATCH| Online art references have played a part in floundering museum attendances. But tech could be at the center of the reinvention of art galleries and exhibits as we know them.

Want to see a van Gogh? Let me Google that for you.

Kickstarter, NADA and the reinvention of the museum

The New Art Dealers Alliance and crowdfunding site Kickstarter held a Reinventing Museums panel at the NADA New York 2017 art fair to discuss how galleries and art exhibits in the future will be able to reach more people.

Part of the answer: technology. Because even though Google Image search has eroded some of the curiosity attached to classic pieces of art, new, more technologically engaging types of art museums (and art itself) could help bring back visitors.

More technologically engaging exhibits

Immersive technologies are coming to more art, making some exhibits in museums as we know them today less like something you can grasp through an online picture or video and more like an experience you have to take in in person.

"With this [Jacolby Satterwhite] VR setup we have right now at the art fair, it’s been nonstop," an attendant from the Los Angeles-based Moran Bondaroff gallery told Circa. "People are drawn to it and want to experience it."

VR exhibits, like the Jacolby Satterwhite piece that was on display at the Moran Bondaroff booth at NADA New York 2017, are more immersive than a run-of-the-mill art show of framed pictures.

Does a museum need to have four walls?

With more art today being created in the digital world -- net art or video, for example -- museums may begin exhibiting more art digitally and leaning on virtual engagement. In fact, Willa Koerner, head of curation at Kickstarter and moderator for the Reinventing Museums panel, told Circa this is already starting to happen.

"I’ve seen museums that will now count certain digital statistics or engagement metrics as digital visitors. So they’re getting more-savvy."

"A museum that ... doesn't exist in the physical world and a museum that we think about as a stone monument -- those ends of the spectrum will blur."

Alex Kalman, co-founder, Mmuseumm

Art "set free"

Members of the New York-based Iyapo Repository present at the NADA panel showed wearable art objects -- one that simulates the feeling of being underwater and one that lights up when a wearer is near a location where an extrajudicial killing of a black person occurred.

Koerner said curators today are still figuring out where some new tech-based pieces should be presented. "If it’s net art, does it belong to be only seen on the internet? ... How do you take this new form of art and set it free?"

This wearable art object creates the feeling of being underwater. It's been shown by the Iyapo Repository, a curator of digital and physical artifacts created to affirm and project the future(s) of peoples of African descent.

A new "digital layer" to classic exhibits

Koerner went on to say that she believes the next step in enhancing traditional museums -- where classic, historical pieces will no doubt continue to be shown -- won't be more media consoles or smartphones apps but some new kind of seamless digital layer that can provide engaging information and disappear into the experience.

"The artists will pop out [of the works] like, I don’t want to say Harry Potter, but kind of like when you're reading a book in Harry Potter... [laughs]"