We do everything online–communicate, socialize, shop, play– it was only a matter of time before galleries turned to the internet to show their exhibitions, and I’m not just talking about showing a few works as a preview but full fledged walk-through virtual tours. This of course begs the question as yo whether or not art can truly be experienced without standing right in front of it. The internet has created an environment in which connection becomes more an idea than a physical manifestation. If we turn art galleries into virtual experiences rather than tangible experiences are we taking away from what makes art so powerful.
Places like The Louvre and The National Gallery of Art offer virtual tours of both past and present exhibitions. The sites vary in their level of quality, but are interesting none the less. As you “walk” through the rooms of a gallery you can click on various pieces and learn a little about them. Which you of course you can do at the actual gallery as well. It does make the viewing of art more convenient but is convenience really what we are looking for when it comes to art. As I virtually toured these two sites I couldn’t help but feel disconnected from the art, which is not surprising. Viewing art in person, whether it be visual or performance allows us to feel a connection that we lose in many other areas of our lives because of the fast paced virtual world that we live in.
There is of course upsides to these new modes of gallery touring. For those who can’t make a trip to France to view the Louvre’s extensive collection, you can hop on the internet and see things you would not be able to normally. It creates an environment of accessibility, as is the case of Art Lounge based in Lebanon. This alternative art space as they call it functions on both the virtual and physical level. They are housed within a warehouse in Beirut they also host an online art store, where you can view and purchase works of art online. Created as a space to show contemporary art as well as foster artistic growth, interaction and communication. On the accessibility front it is an amazing space, and in this case it seems that the use of virtual spaces is beneficial, allowing those who would not be exposed to art the avenue through which to explore.
I’m still not convinced that this new move towards virtual spaces is the best idea in the world, and I definitely do not thing that it should ever replace the galleries themselves, but it does offer an alternative way of viewing art as well as a vehicle for mass exposure to those who might not be able to visit the galleries in person. Art is most powerful when we are right there with it. We feel what the artist is feeling, and that just doesn’t translate to a low res digital image.