Exhibition missed? National Art Gallery Singapore has solution – resource alert


CONTEMPORARY ART INTERNET MUSEUM EXHIBITIONS

Museums worldwide are experimenting with developments in web technology and creating websites that not only act as a marketing tool but provide audiences with educational online exhibitions that mimic three-dimensional gallery environments.

Entry view of Yeh Chi Weh's Exhibition Panorama on website of The National Art Gallery, Singapore. Image by Art Radar.

Entry view of Yeh Chi Wei's Exhibition Panorama on website of The National Art Gallery, Singapore. Image by Art Radar.

Information on past art shows at The National Art Gallery, Singapore is normally provided in writing and through static images in the form of a catalogue or webpage. In an effort to create a more interactive exhibition archive, the institution has launched Exhibition Panoramas, a feature of their website similar to the Google Art Project that allows the online visitor to experience past exhibitions in something close to three-dimensions.

For Art Radar, depth of information including artwork detail, ease of use and an ability to emulate a “real life” experience are key to making a Web feature like this work well for an audience. To date, The National Art Gallery, Singpore has two Exhibition Panorama sets up on its website for visitors to explore: “The Story of Ye Chi Wei” and “Chiong Soo Peng – Bridging Worlds“. We took a tour of both to find out how they performed.

Inside Cheong Soo Pieng - Bridging Worlds, an Exhibition Panorama on the website of The National Art Gallery, Singapore. Image by Art Radar.

Inside Cheong Soo Pieng - Bridging Worlds, an Exhibition Panorama on the website of The National Art Gallery, Singapore. Image by Art Radar.

At the click of an Enter button, the viewer is directed to the exhibition entrance, as it was originally set up in the gallery, and is able to “wander” around each room by scrolling left or right. A click of the arrow on the “floor” of each of the rooms moves you into the next. There are instructions on how to navigate and maps of the space, and outlines of what works are featured also help the viewer to orient themselves and learn about what they are looking at.

Map of Cheong Soo Pieng - Bridging Worlds, an Exhibition Panorama on the website of The National Art Gallery, Singapore. Image by Art Radar.

Map of Cheong Soo Pieng - Bridging Worlds, an Exhibition Panorama on the website of The National Art Gallery, Singapore. Image by Art Radar.

As with every digitally manipulated photograph, there is a bit of a distortion in representing the space, but not enough to encumber the overall viewing experience. While it is only possible to click on some of the artworks in each room, a link labelled “Artefacts” or “Artworks” below the panorama directs viewers to a list of artwork details with images. The pictures provided are not of a high enough resolution to scrutinise in detail, but do give an accurate representation of the artefact or artwork as a whole. The first loading of a set may take a bit of time, but with proceeding visits loading times are much faster.

Clickable curatorial write up provided in an Exhibition Panorama on the website of The National Art Gallery, Singapore. Image by Art Radar.

Clickable curatorial write-up provided in an Exhibition Panorama on the website of The National Art Gallery, Singapore. Image by Art Radar.

Panoramas are a way to represent a space from a wide angle viewpoint. They are used in paintings, film, drawings, photographs, and in this case a virtual model. To produce one of these models, a series of photographs are taken of a space from the angle of the viewer. They are then “stitched” together to give a cylindrical perspective using a variety of Flash or Java-based software. While high resolution models would benefit from using rotating line cameras and professional software, virtual panoramas can also be created on a plethora of gadgets, like smartphones and iPads, using applications (apps) like Photosynth.

It would be close to impossible to recreate an authentic museum experience without extremely high resolution images and a more three-dimensional environment, which would take inconveniently long amounts of time to load on most personal computers. A similar style of art presentation was used at the 2011 VIP Art Fair, the first entirely online contemporary art fair, to mixed reviews. It seems, however, that the real purpose of The National Art Gallery of Singapore’s new Exhibition Panoramas feature is not to give a completely realistic museum experience, but instead to provide a new retrospective or archival model.

Do you think this kind of online archive could replace the traditional exhibition catalogue, whether that catalogue is downloadable or in print? Leave a comment below.

ZD/KN/HH

Related Topics: resources, art and the Internet, reviews – websites, curatorial practice

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