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Saint Michael Archangel - Pedro Gaerc'ia de Benabarre (Spanish 1445-1483)

Saint Michael Archangel – Pedro Gaerc’ia de Benabarre (Spanish 1445-1483) (screen shot)

Off the Wall at the Gardner

 “Off the Wall: Gardner and Her Masterpieces. Seen up close and well lit, twenty-five masterpieces come to life in a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition.Off the Wall: Gardner and Her Masterpieces features twenty-five select highlights from the Museum’s incomparable fine art collection, as well as forty rarely-seen items from the institutional archives. This once-in-a-lifetime exhibition—prompted by ongoing preservation and maintenance of her historic “palazzo” on the Fenway in Boston—provides visitors with direct access to extraordinary works by artists such as Botticelli, Raphael, and Rembrandt, among others.”(Source: Gardner Museum.)

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Fine Art in the New Media

The purpose of this blog is to review the use of New Media technology to make art accessible to everyone, everywhere.

The screen shot above, Saint Michael Archangel, is of one of the works in the exhibition, Off the Wall: Gardner and Her Masterpieces.”  All of the works in the exhibition have  a “mouse over” function which allows the viewer to see extraordinary detailed close-ups of the work.  This feature is an elegant use of a feature which achieves the simple User Interface (UI) which minimizes the number of “clicks” a viewer must endure to finally get to the page they are looking for.

This is an important use of New Technology for Fine Art, as it gives the viewer immediate access simply by using the mouse. Typically, a user has to first click to bring up the work from a thumbnail, then click a second time to enlarge the image, and  then, click a third time to enable the feature. Here, as the Gardner has designed, there are no clicks after the work’s page is brought up. This makes the user interface seamless, an important feature to make UI seamless.

Another great use of New Media technology by the Gardner is an embedded audio feature, for example when you bring up the “Saint Michael Archangel page, you can Listen to Artist Rachel Perry offer a contemporary perspective. While the embedded audio feature is used often in museum websites, the Gardner has ensured that the artist’s comments are relevant and memorable. Instead the the usual embedded audio or video which tells you about the work, in video by the overuse of concentrating on  the “talking head” rather than the work, the embedded audio feature here has an artist talk about the work in from a personal perspective unique to herself.

While this may seem like a small detail, such a presentation takes a great deal of though in developing what the artist is going to say, and creativity in making sure that the artist talks to the listener on an equal level, both in tone and content and makes a lasting impression so that the clip is meaningful to the listener. For example, when Rachel Perry says at the end of the clip that, “this painting is not deemed a masterpiece, and I sort of tie that with my own work …” is a personal statement by the artist, and conveys the message that all art does not have to fall in the category of a “masterpiece” to be beautiful and meaningful.

Additional New Media Features

The Gardner uses the See the Works feature to allow the viewer to have access to the works in the entire exhibition, accessability which is available to everyone, everywhere. Of course, all can’t travel to Boston to see the exhibition, but instead of allowing the viewer to see a few works from the exhibition, the entire exhibition is available online. Again, while this may also seem like a small New Media feature, the Gardner uses it to fulfill its Mission “to engage local and global audiences in a sanctuary of beauty and the arts where deeply personal and communal adventures unfold.”  it to provide accessibility to everyone.”

Isabella Stewart Gardner in Venice (1894), by Anders Zorn (Gardner Museum)

Isabella Stewart Gardner in Venice (1894), by Anders Zorn (Gardner Museum)

“Mrs. Jack”

Of course no Gardner exhibition would be without the Meet the Collector  feature, which here provides  access to an extraordinary collector and an extraordinary woman, Isabella Stewart Gardner,

“The museum which bears her name also stands as a testament to her vision. Isabella Stewart Gardner, known also as “Mrs. Jack” in reference to her husband, John L. (“Jack”) Gardner, was one of the foremost female patrons of the arts… Isabella Stewart Gardner was also the visionary creator of what remains one of the most remarkable and intimate collections of art in the world today and a dynamic supporter of artists of her time, encouraging music, literature, dance, and creative thinking across artistic disciplines.” (Source: Gardner Museum.)

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum 25 Evans Way, Boston MA, 02115
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Note: The Gardner Museum is one of an impressive number of museums which have seized the challenge of Fine Art in the New Media. We have written a number of pieces on e-museums on how museums have adopted New Media technology to their purpose of making art accessible. These prior posts included the Van Gogh Museum, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia. Overall, we continue to believe that museums are in the forefront of adapting New Media technology to their mission (see the blog piece, “e- Museums Leave e-Books in the Dust – A View from Two  Different Centuries“.



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