The Art of Art Browsing:

In an era when images abound everywhere on the web, and the experience of visiting a legendary museum or architectural landmark can be simulated in seemingly real time without leaving your armchair, the experience of art isn’t what it used to be. Enter the latest platform for finding art online——which seeks to canvass all time periods up to the present by integrating new modes and nomenclature for searching, discovering, exploring, sharing, collecting, and possibly even buying art online. The site represents a collective of more than 300 galleries, museums, private collections, and foundations currently serving the art world. And what appears to give it its edge is the fact that it’s powered by the Art Genome Project, which it describes as “an ongoing effort to map the characteristics that connect the world’s artists and artworks.” As they describe them, these shared similarities are called genes, and the individuals involved have currently identified some 800 such art genes. Comparatively less complex than the Human Genome Project, which maps some 25,000 genes physically and functionally, the Art Genome Project is, in fact, somewhat less grand than it sounds; it’s simply a system for tracing similarities between artworks that may not be evident from traditional art historical research methods.

While is an intriguing tool for searching and sharing, its real mission is to sell art—to connect collectors and potential buyers with the galleries representing artists and artworks—but it doesn’t take a commission. It’s a digital middleman to the middleman that uses mapping tools to enhance the art of collecting. It offers two search modes: browse and filter. The first allows you to search by conventional means, by choosing a style or movement or region, for example, and then applying filters; while the second method allows you to search by unconventional methods to start, such as by color or size. There is, of course, a cross-matrixing of categories and filters that implodes the usual constraints for discovering art. The tool tends to idolize art as image in my opinion—there can be no real replacement for the experience of encountering a full-scale artwork for the first time in person—nevertheless appears to be a useful tool for assembling the world’s saleable artwork in one virtual space. For the sheer sake of experiment, I searched for something that caught my key via a series of interconnected clicks, demonstrating the breadth of search-ability that this tool offers collectors. Browse >> Computer Art—then I scrolled by artist, found one that I knew, Casey Reas, and clicked on it. That instigated a new nav bar of subhead categories that included “Most Similar,” “Very Similar,” “Math,” “Generative Art,” and “Contemporary Conceptualism,” among others, and below these I found a lenticular 3-D pigment print by Shane Hope, called auto_sculpt (shown below). Perhaps the greatest benefit this tool offers is that it allows you to find art that interests you by traversing unexpected pathways, and without having to get dressed and actually wander around to find it. That’s a good thing, right?

Screen-Shot-2012-10-10-at-2Laurie Manfra is a freelance architecture and design writer and publisher of the e-book imprint, Point Literary.

Categories: Design