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Fascinating and Wow-Producing Art Websites
by Jerome Weeks 26 Oct 2011

The web seems to have been built just so we can experience artworks in exciting visual and informative ways: pop-ups, timelines, 3D, 360-degree, simulations, maps. Museums and art departments are only just starting to use these capabilities, but here are two eye-catchers.


Yesterday, over on his Modern Art Notes blog, Tyler Green did what he’s been doing for a while now: promoting the ways art museums should get more of their collection and exhibition info online with images, links, supporting material, using Tumblr, Twitter, etc.  So he extolled five museums who are “delivering digitally.”

He goes out of his way to cite sites you’ve probably never encountered (the Art Gallery of Ontario), but also links to new wrinkles on some old faves — like the way the Museum of Modern Art in New York has a special “Materials and Methods” gallery (above) for its current, acclaimed Willem de Kooning retrospective. “M & M” provides the kind of intense, close-up detail you can’t get even in person in a gallery (those weepy drips on “Woman II’ were caused by turpentine).

But it’s in the comments to Green’s post that led me to an eye-popper, mappinggothicFrance.org (below).

It’s not an outlet for a specific museum, which may be why it didn’t merit Green’s merit award; it’s put together by the Media Center for Art History at Columbia University and the Art Department at Vassar College. It provides not only stunning images of France’s Gothic cathedrals from the 12th and 13th centuies, it also offers (as the name might indicate) maps, timelines, floorplans, essays, even a kind of “DIY” digital simulation in which you can mess with the dimensions of a classic-to-Romanesque-to-full-on-Gothic arch until you cause terminal collapse.

The site’s currently in beta, so it’s not finished, but it’s already visually gorgeous. My only suggestion? Perhaps I’m missing the obvious, but I’ve clicked around and around on it and haven’t found any credits for the lovely photos.

Bringing this all back home …  I wonder. Maxwell Anderson was known for leading the innovative and transparent digital field with the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s website (check out what it’s doing with the town’s river). The DMA, where Anderson starts as director in January, has also been cranking out digital access.

So. What’ll they think up next?

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