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message 1: by Heather, Moderator (new)

Heather | 8272 comments The Best Tour Guide May Be in Your Purse

THE San Francisco Museum of Modern Art formally celebrated its 75th anniversary on Jan. 18 with an eye to attracting millennial generation multitaskers. The event included handing out to museumgoers iPod Touches loaded with a rich mix of pictures, interviews, video and graphics exploring 200 pieces in the institution’s permanent collection.

Like almost every major art museum in the country, according to communications officers here and in other cities, the San Francisco institution is using mobile multimedia devices — iPods, iPhones, BlackBerrys and other smartphones — to tell the stories of its exhibits in new ways.

“Essentially, we’ve liberated the audio tour,” said Peter Samis, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s associate curator of interpretation. “We’ve developed five hours of content, made it extremely portable and easy to use, and devoted it to rediscovering aspects of our collection and its history. This is not about techno-fetishism. It’s about focusing on artworks in meaningful sound and video.”

Art museums have always viewed communications as their primary mission. Never, though, have the editorial, design and production staffs of art museums been busier than they are now. Digitization has steadily brought down the cost of the software and tools of multimedia production — audio, video and interactive motion graphics. More powerful and available online access has made smartphones and other mobile devices ubiquitous and more useful.

Mr. Samis said his museum developed the content for the mobile tour with its own staff. Nousguide, a Vienna-based content management company, developed the presentation software. The intent is to marry the story behind a painting or piece of sculpture to the hand-held online and multimedia communications revolution. Last year, a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project predicted that by 2020 mobile devices would be the primary connection to the Internet for most people in the world.

Museum communications departments welcome the challenge. Since the 1960s, when tape recorders and audio tours were first introduced, art museums have embraced technology to provide more engaging ways for patrons to interact with exhibits. In 2002, art museums began delivering audio tours on cellphones. Later in the decade, interactive producers like Second Story, a Portland, Ore., design company, delivered multimedia kiosks and online programming to museums. In May 2008, the San Jose Museum of Art was one of the first to produce a mobile multimedia tour of its exhibit of the evolution of robots. Content was delivered on the first-generation iPod Touch.

Art museums are putting mobile devices to use in creative ways. In Louisville, Ky., the 21c Museum, which describes itself as the only museum in the United States dedicated exclusively to displaying art made in the 21st century, in April will introduce an iPhone multimedia tour that takes advantage of a bar code reader app available at Apple’s App Store. Bar codes placed next to works of art in the museum link iPhone owners to multimedia about the pieces.

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts developed an interactive program for its iAfrica exhibition for smartphone owners. They can download to their device pictures of the art and other exhibits, and an interactive audio feature that enables the user to pluck (virtually) and hear the sounds generated by the long metal tongues of a lamellaphone, a sub-Saharan instrument.

“People want to be part of the learning. They want to participate,” said Kaywin Feldman, the museum’s director and president. “We use the technology to help them better understand works in the collection that can seem remote to a 21st-century visitor.”

In February, the Dallas Museum of Art began a multimedia mobile smartphone tour of its Wendy and Emery Reves collection of 19th-century photography and paintings. The content includes pictures, audio interviews and video documentaries and interviews coded for each artwork. The museum strengthened its wireless access, and then made the multimedia content available on its Web site at

“We made a decision to keep total production of the content completely in-house — Web, coding, design, editing, music, talent, posting,” said Gail Davitt, the museum’s director of education. “There was a clear sense that we didn’t want to end up dependent on the device of the year, but rather to produce content and then be flexible with how we might use it.”

The Brooklyn Museum of Art photographed much of its collection and put it online in March 2009 with a software application that invited people to share the content. Four months later, Adam Shackelford, the chief technical officer of Iconoclash Media, a Brooklyn-based Web site and iPhone app company, introduced Brooklyn Museum Mobile Collection as a free app in the iPhone store. Patrons can now tour the collection with their phone whether they visit or not.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art produced a multimedia iPod Touch tour of its “Sacred Spain: Art and Belief in the Spanish World” exhibition, which began in October and ended in January. The production included audio interviews and video documentaries along with period music and pictures. Each feature was number-coded to pieces in the exhibition. Visitors to the museum paid $5 to rent the devices.

“We are helping visitors learn the story behind the content. We are telling things that are interesting,” said Robert Stein, a computer scientist who serves as the museum’s chief information officer. “Some of what we are doing with mobile device also is betting on where things are going.”

One of the most interesting mobile multimedia features at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art describes in detail René Magritte’s “Les Valeurs Personnelles,” the artist’s 1952 painting of oversized male toiletries. The feature includes an interactive display of the painting; touching the comb, mirror or shaving dish opens a window for more video, text or audio content that explains the context and importance of the object.

Ramon and Julia Rios, residents of San Diego who were visiting the museum, handed their driver’s licenses to the information desk and were handed back iPod Touches. “I saw people coming over to get the devices,” said Mr. Rios. “I thought, O.K., I’d like to try it. Let’s see what it’s like.”

Later, on the second floor of the museum, Mrs. Rios was asked about the multimedia tour. “I like it. There’s a lot here,” she said, holding up the device. “It’s easy to use and very informative. You have so much more information with this.”

message 2: by Carol (new)

Carol (goodreadscomcarolann) | 1140 comments We have used audio devices for big exhibits that have timed entrances. I think it works well there because so many people are moving through the room at the same time. It would be impossible to talk in such a busy setting.

As a docent I have to say that there is something unique within a tour group. Each person contributes their perspective and so the tour is based more on their interpretation and they feel free to discuss differences or same interests. Listening to a device eliminates communication between people.

I think that is what is best at The Wadsworth Atheneum. Sometimes I'll have a booked group who will state what they want to see. But usually I have "drop-in" tours. Monthly the museum gives us a tour theme and we are allowed to select our own artworks, and are encouraged to change our artworks so my tour is never the same. It makes it interesting for my visitors and for me. It also makes me more knowledgeable about more art so if someone wants to look at something not planned, I do it because most of the time I have done it before.

Just last week after a tour had ended, a 10 yr. old girl turned to her mom and said that she wanted to see some sculpture. I had an hour until I had to do an Art-in-Focus talk so I offered to take them around the museum. In 30 minutes they saw 3 sculptures and a variety of porcelain. After each artwork I asked if she wanted to see another. After the 3rd sculpture, she wanted to go downstairs and do the kid's craft project. So we took the elevator down and it seemed that we all had a good time. I think that's what we do best. We are here for you, the visitor. No tour is set in stone, routine or dull. We just want every visitor to have a good time while looking at art.

message 3: by Heather, Moderator (last edited Sep 07, 2010 07:31PM) (new)

Heather | 8272 comments Always in Its Element, No Matter the Weather

Credit: Librado Romero/The New York Times

Maya Lin’s outdoor installation,“Storm King Wavefield,” in Mountainville, N.Y., is rows of rolling hills that change with the light and the season

By Holland Cotter

With summer on the wane and autumn on the way, Nature’s where you want to be. And there’s no more bracing or reposeful place to find it than Storm King Art Center, one of the country’s premier outdoor sculpture parks, set on 500 acres of wide-open meadow and woodland in Mountainville, N.Y., about an hour’s drive north of Manhattan.

Librado Romero, a photographer for The New York Times, has spent a lot of time there over the past year, watching constantly changing weather and light playing over one of the center’s most spectacular site-specific works, Maya Lin’s gently monumental “Storm King Wavefield.”

The work, which had its debut in May 2009, is made up of seven parallel rows of long, undulating, grass-covered earthen mounds. These forms, which reach a height of 15 feet, were originally inspired by swells of waves in midocean, though at Storm King they seem tailor-made to echo the lines of the surrounding Hudson Highlands hills.

Set in a former gravel pit, the piece is designed to be seen from two quite different perspectives. Viewers standing on the pit’s rim will have a kind of panoramic aerial view, while those approaching from below, at ground level, will find the same landscape rising around and over them as they walk between “waves.”

Any outdoor sculpture composed of organic and degradable materials is bound to show physical wear and tear, and require vigilant conservation. During a reseeding of the grass covering this summer, visitors were restricted from going inside the piece. But within the next few weeks access will be restored, and with it the possibility of an absorbing encounter with the work along with a distanced survey of it.

Then there’s the perspective of photography, which is unlike any other, or rather like all others combined: sweeping and intimate, detailed and abstract. In my colleague’s pictures we see “Storm King Wavefield” the way Ms. Lin probably, ideally, hoped we would: as equally art and nature. We see it in changing light and seasons. Almost magically, we see it in a way we otherwise never could: what it looks like when we’re not there.

message 4: by Carol (new)

Carol (goodreadscomcarolann) | 1140 comments Here's a great video of Maya Lin discussing the 3 sites (2008)

message 5: by Heather, Moderator (new)

Heather | 8272 comments Doorman delivers lost art
New York Post

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The million-dollar painting that mysteriously vanished six weeks ago, was displayed for part of the time on the bathroom wall of a Fifth Avenue doorman -- who told cops he found it in bushes outside the building where he works, The Post learned last night.

Franklin Puentes, who mans the door at 995 Fifth Ave. near East 81st Street, said he stumbled on the painting, "Portrait of a Girl," on July 29 -- just one day after courier Carl Haggerty claimed he got drunk and lost it after showing it to a prospective buyer at The Mark hotel on East 77th Street.

Puentes, who first stored the painting in his locker, said he immediately suspected the painting belonged to one of his well-heeled tenants and tried for days to locate its rightful owner.

After coming up blank, he said he took it home.

When friends gazed at the impressive addition to Puentes' gallery, they told him it appeared pretty valuable, sources said.

He researched it and last Sunday discovered that it was at the center of a legal storm that included a lawsuit and federal criminal charges.

He brought it that day to the 19th Precinct station house and turned it over to surprised cops.

The FBI, which had charged one of its co-owners with fraud, soon showed up and took possession of the artwork.

Authorities are investigating Puentes' tale and have not charged him.

"The doorman brought it in to the 19th Precinct at 3 p.m. on Sept. 12," said a law enforcement source. "He found the paiting at the end of July. He doesn’t know the date. He went away on a three week vacation and stored the painting in his locker at the building where he works. He says he found it outside the building. His story is definitely weird. It doesn't make sense."

The artwork, by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, made its way into the headlines when its owner, Krystyn Trudgeon, sued Haggerty, an ex-con, for losing it.

Things got more confusing the next day, when Trudgeon withdrew her lawsuit after learning that her co-owner, Thomas Doyle, had pleaded guilty in 2007 to scamming a business exec out of a $600,000 sculpture.

Haggerty and Doyle once did time together in prison.

Last week, the feds charged Doyle with mail and wire fraud. They said he'd removed the painting from a warehouse without authorization.

Authorities claimed that Doyle had told a Japanese buyer that he could purchase the painting for $1.1 million and received $880,000 from the unsuspecting collector.

But, Doyle allegedly only paid $775,000 for it and pocketed the remaining $105,000. Haggerty disappeared from his luxurious Upper West Side home days after he allegedly lost the painting and hasn't been spotted since.

He is also being sued for $800,000 for allegedly not paying a consulting firm for services.

message 6: by Monica (new)

Monica | 909 comments What's $105,000.00 between friends?

message 7: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Lopez | 257 comments What a weird story.

message 8: by Monica (new)

Monica | 909 comments Truly.

message 9: by Heather, Moderator (new)

Heather | 8272 comments Richard Serra Sculpture Rusts in Bronx Yard

by Sam Dolnick
New York Times

To see gargantuan steel sculptures fashioned by Richard Serra, you could visit the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, or the Dia: Beacon, 60 miles north of New York City. Or you could go to a crane yard near a heating-oil terminal in Port Morris, an industrial corner of the South Bronx.

There, amid belching smokestacks and clanging delivery trucks, sits artwork made by Mr. Serra, a secret grace note in a decidedly ungraceful block. The briny air from the river just steps away blows across the steel plates, bent in a trademark Serra arc that would be recognized on the moon — which, in the art world, Port Morris might as well be.

A massive sculpture by Richard Serra stands in a fenced lot in the South Bronx.

The piece — five plates, about one and a half stories high — is not displayed for public view or assembled as Mr. Serra intended. It stands behind a raggedy chain-link fence while a stray black-and-white cat stands watch. Cranes and falling-down sheds surround it. It has sat there for years, waiting to be delivered to its owner, said Joe Vilardi of Budco Enterprises, a Long Island rigging company that placed the steel in the Bronx lot and has long worked with Mr. Serra.

“It is parts of a sculpture that are just in storage right now,” Mr. Vilardi said.

Mr. Serra, 70, is famous for his massive steel sculptures, which were the subject of a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 2007. He is notorious for being particular about how his pieces are displayed. In the 1980s, Mr. Serra refused to move a sculpture that had been installed in Foley Square in Manhattan, declaring, “To remove the work is to destroy it.”

In a similar vein, his associates said the plates hiding in the crowded yard in the Bronx should not be considered a work of art at all, and certainly not a bona fide Serra sculpture. In their eyes, a Serra is not a Serra until Mr. Serra says it is; this, they say, is a big hunk of metal behind a chain-link fence.

“To him it really isn’t his work unless it’s installed properly,” said Trina McKeever, Mr. Serra’s studio assistant. She asked that the exact location of the Bronx piece not be revealed, to prevent graffiti and vandalism.

If it is just a parked piece of steel, it is surely the most valuable heavy metal in a neighborhood filled with the stuff. In May, Sotheby’s sold a much smaller Serra sculpture for $1.9 million. The Gagosian Gallery, which represents Mr. Serra, would not reveal the owner or the price of the piece in the Bronx.

Whether art or art-to-be, it is striking just the same. Seen from the lot next door, it is a rusty mirage, an amber curve that overshadows a nearby crane truck and stands next to a corrugated tin shed of similar size if not sensuality. When the sun hits the delicate outer slope, it shimmers. In place of the usual curatorial card that might provide some insight as to the material or inspiration behind the work, there is a sign saying, “No Trespassing, No Dumping.”

Told of the unlikely exhibition, Eric Stark, curator of the New School Art Collection, made the pilgrimage one recent morning to see for himself. “Wow,” he said, walking up to the fence. “If you’ve seen enough of these ellipses, it just screams out that this is a Richard Serra.”

Nearby, a shopping cart lay in the shrubs. Used condoms and decomposing cardboard littered the ground. “I find the whole thing incredibly poetic,” Mr. Stark said.

Art storage is big business in New York, and there are expansive spaces in places like the Brooklyn Navy Yard. But the art is generally stored inside — not in a lot where cranes are parked.

Bloggers and intrepid photographers have discovered the Serra piece in the unlikely storage spot and published the results of their explorations online. In 2006, artists sneaked into the site and covered the piece with magnets as part of a project titled “Invisible Graffiti.”

Nathan Kensinger, a photographer, stumbled upon the Serra piece in February 2009 and managed to walk among its spirals. “I’ve come across a lot of surprising, abandoned things in New York City, but never before a Richard Serra piece that’s worth millions of dollars,” he said in an interview.

One of Mr. Kensinger’s pictures, which he displayed on his blog, shows the word “Bellamy” scrawled across a beam. A Serra sculpture called “Bellamy,” named for Richard Bellamy, one of his early dealers, was shown at a Gagosian space in Chelsea in 2001. Mr. Serra’s studio declined to comment on whether the Bronx work was the Bellamy sculpture.

In some respects, Mr. Serra’s steel plates blended nicely into the industrial surroundings. Unassembled, they may not even be the most striking sight on the Port Morris coast.

Nearby stand two rusting gantries, five-story arches that were used as ferry slips in the 1950s and abandoned decades ago. “If you put that sculpture next to these gantries, people would come from all over the world to see it,” Mr. Stark said.

Mr. Serra has long had a fascination with America’s industrial history. Many of his sculptures are made of Cor-Ten steel. “I’m sure he would rather pass the day talking to a steelworker than an art historian,” Mr. Stark said.

Harry Bubbins, an environmentalist who has fought to improve waterfront access in the South Bronx, is one of the few who knows about the Port Morris “installation.” He is not impressed — “To me, it’s just an object on the shoreline blocking access like anything else” — but he knows that others would be.

He and the local advocacy group Friends of Brook Park seek to create a sculpture garden at the gantry site that would be modeled on the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Queens. The centerpiece, Mr. Bubbins dreams, could be the Serra sculpture. It would certainly reduce shipping costs.

message 10: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl Interesting. "Waiting to be delivered to its owner" - so what's the holdup? The owner can't afford the delivery fee? Has no place to put it? (I can sympathize.) I guess he must feel somewhat comforted to know that it can't be stolen, at least. I saw Serra's installation at Dia Beacon and it was neat.

message 11: by Heather, Moderator (new)

Heather | 8272 comments Good questions! I was wondering if he wants it to rust to add to the whole feeling of the piece. Hmmm. But it does say that "Mr. Serra’s steel plates blended nicely into the industrial surroundings. Unassembled, they may not even be the most striking sight on the Port Morris coast." And he was really into "America's Industrial History". Who knows what he is thinking.

message 12: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 1889 comments Interesting. I, too, wonder who the owner is, and why he hasn't had it installed.

message 13: by Heather, Moderator (new)

Heather | 8272 comments Seeking the Natural Tie of Art and Science

CONNECTIONS A 2009 mixed-media installation includes Bronx River and East River editions of “Amphibious Architecture” with video.

New York Times

Artists and scientists have plenty in common: Both work in competitive fields that value creativity, ingenuity and results. But an artist is not a scientist, and vice versa — unless you are Natalie Jeremijenko. Ms. Jeremijenko has degrees in fields that link biochemistry, physics, neuroscience and engineering. She directs the Environmental Health Clinic at New York University, crossing over into the art and computer science departments. But all that really matters when visiting “Natalie Jeremijenko: Connected Environments” at the Neuberger Museum of Art is how what is on view functions as art.

"Lure 2010"

Lots of technological objects make us consider our relationships with other organisms in “Ooz” — that is “Zoo backwards and without cages,” according to the edible checklist for the show, made from a rice product. Geese, we learn through remote-control decoys and a video that shows them in action on water, are significant because of what they can teach us about communication and “durable social relationships.” (They are long-term maters and prone to same-sex partnerships.) Salamanders, presented in an edible algae form that glows in the dark, offer models for “victimless” meat, because they regenerate their tails. A “snail roller coaster” allows snails, periodically liberated from a holding pen, to roam freely around a twisted band of clear polypropylene hanging from the ceiling like a mobile. And why snails? Because their residue-slime is a powerful antioxidant that might teach us something about leaving cleaner traces on this earth.

Some of the other works include “Beetle Wrestling Equipment,” in which you can, on scheduled occasions, don a specially engineered jacket, take hold of a computerized apparatus and wrestle with a live rhinoceros beetle, proportionally the world’s strongest creature. Or you can rest on inclined, foam-cushioned planks and watch videos from the ’90s and the past decade that focus on security and personal liberties. In one, Ms. Jeremijenko is stopped by security agents at the Los Angeles airport while skating on her environmentally friendly Rollerblades.

What holds the show together is Ms. Jeremijenko’s activist drive: Most of the work engages with environmental concerns, sustainability and how we might learn from and get along better with other species on the planet. The Environmental Health Clinic project includes a variety of “prescriptions” doled out to “impatients” unwilling to wait for corrective legislation: lamps that incorporate plants; an absorptive mat for cleaning up crude oil spills; gardenlike “micro-landscapes” designed to fit into the dead No Parking spaces on urban streets.

Rather than wall labels or audio guides, hired students escort visitors through the show, imparting information. My own tour was private and guided by the artist. I learned more about food and eco-politics in 90 minutes than one might in a semester-long seminar taught by a less formidable intellect.

Ms. Jeremijenko remains ever the scientist, activist and educator. But all this didacticism can be off-putting at times. Here is where the differences between art and science make themselves clear: Science generally has something to prove, whereas great art tends to be open-ended, asking questions rather than pressing for answers, or having them pressed upon you. Moreover, art used as a pill to swallow a science lesson is a tricky proposition. Art doesn’t like to be a pill; it likes to be art.

The show at the Neuberger is partly handicapped because we are seeing the works at a video remove; many were originally installed or activated in other, often outdoor locations. “Amphibious Architecture (East River Edition)” from 2009, for instance, featured clear plastic tubes outfitted with computerized sensors and lights and was installed in the water off Williamsburg, Brooklyn. When fish swam underneath, the tops of the tubes lit up, creating a kind of aquatic version of Walter de Maria’s “The Lightning Field,” in which stainless steel poles planted in the desert are periodically activated by lightning. There was, of course, an educative angle to the work, about fish and their simpatico relationship with humans. In situ, however, it offered a sense of poetry and mystery that is only partly translated in the video on view at the Neuberger.

Ms. Jeremijenko’s work, both inside and outside the gallery, asks big questions, including some she might not have intended, like, What do we want from art? What do we want from science? Her reigning query, however, appears to be this noble and worthy one: How can art and science be imaginatively joined to help us live better on earth?

"Tree Logic"
Six inverted sugar maples hang 30 feet off the ground at Mass MoCA in North Adams, Mass. Tree Logic is an artwork by Natalie Jeremijenko tracking the changes in these trees over time.

Photo courtesy of Gwen Steege

“Natalie Jeremijenko: Connected Environments” runs through Oct. 24 at the Neuberger Museum of Art, 735 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase. Information: or (914) 251-6100.

message 14: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) this one is interesting, Megan. Art and science do go together.

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