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Digital art in museums: fusing art and tech

The Barco team explains why art museums should embrace new technologies in order to stay current

L’Atelier des Lumières Gustav Klimt digital art paris the kiss

by Barco

Technology and art. At first sight, these might seem like two distinct disciplines. But, throughout history, technology has served as a source of inspiration for celebrated works and has provided artists with new tools for expression.

Today, the two are interlinked more than ever. Technology is the fundamental force in the development and evolution of new art forms, with new media / digital art as the pinnacle of this symbiosis of technology and art. In this post, we’ll elaborate on a number of these new technologies and refute some art museums’ hesitancies around digital arts.

New technologies to unleash creativity

It’s said that art and the ability to create art is what differentiates the human species from anything else in this world. And for a long time, art was traditionally seen as a tangible thing. Something created by a human being, a person with skilled handcraftsmanship.

But what if you no longer need paintbrushes to create a painting or chisels to sculpt figures? New technologies are changing the way art is created and shared. This also opens gateways for new artistic concepts from artists that think beyond the conventional boundaries of the art world.

Multimedia artist Refik Anadol, for instance, was one of the firsts to explore the potential of synergies between art and machine learning.

“As an artist and a researcher, I’m really inspired about how we can make the invisible more visible,” Anadol says. “Translating data to reinterpret and narrate a world that we cannot see or touch.”

Digital art in museums: a stage for new artists

Contemporary art institutions claim to cover all kinds of contemporary art; but in practice, they sometimes don’t. The last decade has introduced numerous significant digital artists that use advanced technology to make memorable installations and performances. These artists deserve a stage.

Also, by giving the opportunity to young upcoming digital artists, galleries and museums open the doors to new generations of visitors.

For an institution showing contemporary work, to omit new media practice, I won’t say irresponsible, but it’s ignorant.

Honor Harger, former curator at Tate Modern

In our previous post, we mentioned that for museums to be successful in the 21st Century, they need to understand how to connect with younger generations, speak their language and sync with their interests.

Most people understand the need for exhibitions targeted towards children. But engaging young adults seem to be more challenging. Young adults are heavily immersed in today’s digital culture. So, museums should look more into offering digital content to the millennial market.

The inclusion of their peers’ works will also give young adults the feeling of representation. This in turn leads to a positive inspiring museum experience.

Don’t play catch-up

Art museums tend to be more conservative institutions. And for a long time, many did not consider digital art as ‘real art’.

However, earlier this year, Christie’s, the renowned auction house, auctioned off its first digital-only artwork. The work, by an artist named Beeple, went for nearly 70 million dollars. Many agree that this unique sale introduced the next chapter in art history with a new appreciation for digital arts.

Beeple digital art Christie's
Beeple (b. 1981), EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS, 2021.

The notion of art has evolved greatly throughout the centuries. Something new is always a bit more complex to grasp. And doubts are understandable. But if modern museums really wish to be a representative of the art of their time, then digital art is a trend they can’t ignore any longer

Or as Glenn Lowry, director of the MoMA in New York, summarizes: “In the past, we resisted some of the directions contemporary art was moving.

“We missed Warhol in the ‘60s. We avoided collecting the art stars of the ‘80s. But we came to realize that we had been foolish, so we played catch-up. And what I don’t want to do is play catch-up here.”

Because of its stigma, many museums were long hesitant about the curation of digital arts. But after a period of denial and deferral, art museums have now finally entered the digital art fray. Should museums really involve themselves with experimentation, novelties and cutting-edge art? We say yes!

Top image kind courtesy of Culturespaces

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Barco designs and develops visualisation products – encompassing the entire visualisation spectrum for attractions, projection mapping, experience centres, museums, planetariums, retail, stadiums and arenas.

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