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A museum of one's own

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The Goya Museum in Castres, France - by Tony Karp
The Goya Museum in Castres, France

I think that the foremost aspiration of any artist is that their work will be remembered and will be available to be seen. The pinnacle of this is for an artist to have their own museum. Imagine, a whole building dedicated to just your works of art. And, of course, your name is in great big letters across the front of the building. Since it's your museum, you can say just which works will be shown and how they'll be arranged for display.

A number of artists have their own museums. Andy Warhol in Pittsburgh, Miró in Barcelona, Toulouse Lautrec in Albi, Van Gogh in Amsterdam, and Picasso, with so many that it seems like a museum chain. It looks like there are at least two things that you have to do to get your own museum: 1. Become very, very, very famous. 2. Die. This methodology has worked very well for the folks that I've listed, but it's not something you'd want to try at home.

But that was then. Now, thanks to the Internet, every artist can have their own museum, at a cost of just a few dollars a month. No expensive real estate to buy, no staff to hire, no docents to recruit to give tours and, best of all, your museum can be visited from anywhere in the world.

Given the attractiveness of this, why haven't more artists and photographers taken advantage of this opportunity to build a legacy while you're still alive? A number have, and they fall into just a few categories. At the low end, a simple website, showing just a few pictures against a horrid background. Or you could use an online service like Flickr, which makes it simple, but doesn't give you much flexibility in how your images are displayed. Or, Ta-Da!, a beautiful website, built with Flash, to display your treasures. (This last method is a serious mistake, but that's a subject for another article.)

As the curator of one of the oldest museums on the web, I chose a fourth route. The Techno-Impressionist Museum started out in 1995, a humble thing, just a single page with a few of my early drawings. Since then, it has grown to one of the largest art sites on the web, with shows and exhibits. each one trying a different way to present web-based art.

The problem with this approach is that it takes a lot more work, and there are more tools involved, each with its own learning curve. The good news is that the cost is trivial compared to, say, eating lunch in a nice restaurant or buying your morning coffee fix at Starbucks. I pay less than $10 a month for the hosting service for all of my web sites, and tools to build your web site are inexpensive, many of them free. You can find them with your favorite search engine.

In the end, it's all about control. One of the first things an artist learns is the idea ol control. Artists must learn to control their hands and how to control the medium in which they work. It can take years to master this. But the one thing that most artists can't control is how their work is presented to the public. When an artist is gone, their work will vanish from the public eye. All that remains, assuming that the artist was successful, will be an occasional gallery show or museum exhibit. If the artist was lucky enough to have a book published, it will eventually be out of print.

But the Internet will change that forever. Just as the computer requires new skills like learning word processing, the Internet poses a new challenge to the artist in presenting their work. It's a great opportunity, and I'll have more to say about this in future articles.


Today's new word -- Transgraphism -- Writing in the first person as a member of the opposite sex.
<< Previous  Jun 16, 2008  Next >>
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