In times of crisis, the role of art proves to be as vital as ever. What have we left to turn to but art — the medium in which we find solace, ideas can be manifested and perspectives exchanged? Art has become a means of recording, processing and responding to the making of this collective history. It’s only natural for us to turn to art, not as a means of distraction but to be reminded of what it means to be human.
Despite the momentary closure of galleries and museums, we can thank digitization for the art world’s growing online presence as an alternative experience of art.
Here are some happenings in the art world that can be enjoyed from home:
A fluid online exhibition, curated by Barbara Pollack and Anne Verhallen and self described as “a place of exchange, a place to vent or cry, share anxieties or plan a revolution.” Created specifically in light of the global crisis, this exhibition reminds us of the unifying strength and comfort that art can provide.
2. Watercolors by Sam Gilliam, Pace Gallery
Sam Gillian is known for his installation stained canvases; these works on paper are just as — if not more — rich in color and density.
3. The Lost Paradise by Mamma Andersson, David Zwirner Gallery
Swedish painter Mamma Andersson captures the dreaminess and dreariness of Nordic landscapes, figures and interiors. Her work holds a barren yet emotional grandeur — if such presence can be held even in images, I can only imagine seeing them in person.
The growing ubiquity of online viewing rooms allows art to be more accessible — not just in times of crisis, but for all who have access to the Internet. However, with all technological and ideological shifts in our societal patterns, there will always be tradeoffs.
Seeing art through the mediation of a screen will always be different than viewing it in person. Primarily, the presence and physicality of art is greatly diminished — there is no experience of sharing the same air with a painting or being immersed in an installation. More subtly, though, I’d argue that the online experience is heavily designed, even more so than a gallery or a museum. Physical spaces are rarely neutral; digital ones are never.
Design considerations in the experience of a site (think the format, order, size and number of images on a screen) can change the viewing of an artwork drastically. Even the order in which work is presented is something that is more prominent online than in person. Information and the hierarchy in which it is displayed now shapes how art is displayed, viewed and received.
The art world’s shift to, or inclusion of, the digital is exciting, especially in times like these, but as with all technology we are called to decide whether the convenience we gain outweighs the sacrifice of in person viewing. Personally, once this all passes, I look forward to resuming my New York City pilgrimages and gallery-hopping in the flesh.
Cecilia Lu is a sophomore in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.