Chapter 1:
Internet Art
Chapter 2:
Chapter 3:
Digital Weakness
Table of Figures
James Hayes' art website

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a fantastic online presence via its website27. This free resource presents more than 3,500 works of art through high quality "zoomable" images, including reference information on each. This valuable and easily accessible research resource puts The Met's collection truly at the disposal of the public, although admittedly it is but a small slice of their overall collection of over two million works of art. The interactive nature of the Internet has also been utilised to the full, as the online works of art are searchable by artist, period, style or keyword. This is cross-referenced with The Met's interactive "Timeline of Art History", which provides an overview of art history through maps and chronologies, spanning from 20,000 BC to 1,400 AD, and eventually will be updated to extend to the present day. This provides the Internet public with a "museum specific" online encyclopedia of art history.

The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York also has an impressive online presence28, combining standard "hours of operation" type information with interactive and informative Flash animations about current exhibitions. The viewer can navigate through these animations to discover an overview of an artist's work, practice and biography, as well as view samples of the artist's work. Viewers can also peruse past online exhibitions, dating back to 199529, with a complete listing of exhibitions and available publications dating back to 1991. Through the "Education" section of the website the public can access a complete listing of all MOMA publications, most of which are available for purchase via the online store. There is also access to the "DADABASE" - the online catalogue of the MOMA library, archives and study centers, information about the education programming and staff, and a link to the "Art Safari"30 which is a website in itself. The "Art Safari" is an educational "adventure in looking for children and adults"31 which leads the viewer through the process of how to look at art by asking the viewer to answer simple questions about four different pieces from the collection. This focus on free online learning encourages the general public to take an active role in understanding art, and tackles one of the great issues often raised by artists, that of an artistically educated public. There can be no doubt that an educated and therefore appreciative public will be of benefit to the artistic community.

In comparison, the online presence for the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA)32 is just above the level of an information brochure. The website does have a beautifully designed front page, but after that it falls far short of the standards set by other national museums and galleries. The information presented on exhibitions and collections is brief in the extreme and consists mainly of text, with minimal accompanying images. There is no attempt made at online education. Although the relevant authorities might cry "budget restrictions" it is a sad indication of attitudes towards art even during this so-called "Celtic tiger" economy that the main modern art museum for the country should provide such a woefully inadequate Internet presence.

The IMMA website thankfully does not set the standard for all Irish art organisations' online presence, but rather is scrabbling to catch up with the pack. The Bureau of Arts Information at Arthouse Multimedia Centre for the Arts33 in Dublin has established an Irish Artists database Artifact34 which is available for research by commissioning bodies, curators, art consultants, librarians, architects, interior designers, arts organisations, publishers and of course the general public. This database of almost 1,000 Irish artists contains over 5,000 scanned slide images of the artists' work as well as their Curriculum Vitae and artists' statements, and is fully searchable by name, style, media and keywords. This service is supported by funding from the Irish Arts Council, and as such the fees for individual artist's membership in Artifact are nominal and only just cover the cost of scanning slides.

What is significant is that up until September 2000 this database of information was only available outside of the Arthouse premises on CD-ROM, the price of which directly targeted large institutions. A decision was made within Arthouse to make this database freely available via the Internet, a process which involved designing a sophisticated interface for providing a fully searchable online resource. Promotion of Irish art to an international audience on this scale would not have been possible without the use of the Internet. The Bureau at Arthouse acts as a go between for interested parties to contact artists. In this way the Bureau can keep track of the success of Artifact, as well as acting as a security screen by keeping artists' contact details private to only those genuinely interested.

Arthouse Multimedia Centre for the Arts also promotes interest in online artwork and in artists' personal websites by providing a "gateway" of links pages via the Arthouse website35. Arthouse, by the fact of its relatively high profile and acceptance by the new media arts community, helps to drive traffic to other websites by linking to them. This is a central concept of the Internet: links between sites and traffic to those sites are equated with popularity and importance, thus leading to higher ratings with search engines. What this means is that if Arthouse is assisting other art websites in this manner they are more likely to appear in search engine listings, and therefore more likely to be seen by "Joe Public". Just because a website exists does not mean it is easy to find, and half the battle is to gain recognition from the search engines - such as, for example, Alta Vista, Google, Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, AOL, Excite, and Hotbot.36 The more people who can successfully find an artist's website, the more likelihood there is that a percentage of those viewers may be interested in purchasing or commissioning work. This is often the whole reason for publishing a website.

The Arthouse website provides other essential resources that are targeted at the art community as opposed to the general public. The VITA37 website provides information for artists on many different aspects of professional practice in an easily accessible online form. As stated on the website:

VITA was a two-year pilot project promoted and managed by ARTHOUSE as part of its Research and Development activities. VITA focused on enabling practising and undergraduate artists to develop their professional skills, based on needs identified by artists principally in Ireland and in the UK.38

The VITA Workbook is a valuable online document that covers diverse aspects of professional practice including networking, studios, insurance, legal status, funding, finance, marketing, exhibiting, commissions, competitions, a list of contact information and a thorough bibliography of sources. Although some of the information is Ireland specific, much of it is still valuable to an international arts audience.

by James Hayes
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