Applying “2.0” to art?

21 10 2007

Recently I had the privilege of attending a talk from the University Scholars Seminar series by Mr. Kwok Kian Chow, director of the Singapore Art Museum. It was a talk on the challenges faced by the museum in obtaining rare pieces of art, portraying non-conventional pieces like seal carvings as art to the public and bringing more awareness to various art forms around the world.

One of his points which caught my attention was how art pieces no matter how minuscule, are dramatized and enlarged when they are placed within the frame of the museum. Art pieces showcased in a museum are perceived as having a greater value and recognition than before. This made me wonder, as the idea of “art” is so subjective and obscure, how does the museum select pieces that qualify to be showcased? I got the impression that the museum is similar to an examination body which passes and fails its candidates (in this case potential artists) based on performance. Those who pass get their pieces showcased and labeled as artists while those who don’t, remain as “aspiring” artists.

Frankly speaking, there are many art pieces (especially MODERN art pieces) which leave me wondering “Is this art?” and “How is this worth hundreds of thousands??”. In this era where everyone’s talking about web 2.0 being the new way the world works, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we took a “web 2.0” approach to art, one where the public is given the freehand to define art, one where they can nominate and vote for art pieces they believe deserve to be showcased in a museum.

In my opinion, a few things will happen:

1) No more kindergarten looking doodlings!
The following art pieces will definitely be left out in the cold. I personally don’t understand how these pieces can be considered as art. To me they are just a bunch of random scribblings which you commonly see little kids produce.

Modern art 1Modern art 2Modern Art 3

2) Picasso’s work left out in the cold?
I’d say that Picasso is one of the well-known artists among the populace who was the bridge between conventional and modern art. Picasso’s works consist of both modern and traditional art. However, when you talk to people about “art”, the image that goes into their heads are those of Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and beautiful imageries of landscapes.

Imagine we showcased some of Picasso’s more modern works without his name attached to it. Will the general public still consider them as art?


3) A BORING and biased museum?
Think about it, we might have a museum of very conventional, European-styled paintings and sculptures similar to the likes of Da Vinci, Rembrandt and Michael Angelo. Most of the pieces will be realistic looking, aesthetically beautiful, peaceful and non-radical. Non-radical because people in the past have been known to avoid/shun/despise radical pieces of works. E.g: The book on the Theory of Evolution by Charles Darwin.


The museum will be a more boring place than it already is because we might end up having very similar-looking/themed art pieces for DECADES. There will be no art pieces that make you work your brain like the INFAMOUS dot in the middle of a black canvas. Everytime I look at the piece, I try to understand how critiques came to claim that the dot depicts life. I stress my brain to find a connection even though I find it utterly ridiculous that people consider that art.

Coming to biaseness, As the general public’s perception of art is very European, we might leave out various lesser known art forms and styles from the rest of the world like Chinese and Batuan paintings.


These art styles and forms are very beautiful but as time goes by, they may be forgotten because people are less aware of their existence. Ever heard the saying that people are like herds of sheep, just following the masses?

Taking a “2.0” approach to art may be both a good and bad thing. On one hand, the museum will be showcasing pieces which the public would like to see but on the other, there will be a tendency to favour the more conventional and widely accepted art forms and styles. Then again, I may be wrong. It’d be fun if someone tries this “2.0” approach for an art exhibition some day soon, then we can see what the masses really think is art. 🙂




12 responses

21 10 2007

Hello… Wow, your blog’s grown! It looks so serious and professional. XD

But back to your post: Maybe it’s because I generally don’t have much faith in the public, but I imagine having a more “democratic” voting process to decide which art piece goes into a museum will result in exactly the same thing you’re trying to avoid: the hegemony of specific tastes. In this case, it would be replacing of one set of tastes (the museum operators) for another (the public masses).

One would think that everybody having a say would mean we’d end up with a varied display, but if majority-voting is the rule of the day, wouldn’t that mean only the mass opinion will be represented? And considering how your average, non-Art History major dude/dudette would likely have grown up on a diet of European art, we could end up right back at where we started.

While it’s cool if museums showcased something the public wanted to see (that may help improve the atrocious visitor rate for those poor institutions, at least in Singapore), at the same time, you don’t want to leave underappreciated pieces in the dust, which is exactly what could happen if the public is allowed to decide.

You know what, though? I just thought of something that is exactly what you described: the public voting for the new 7 Wonders of the World. If I’m not mistaken, voting was done online over a loooong period, to decide what the new wonders would be. Interestingly, certain wonders were already guaranteed a place in the new list by officials themselves (I think among them was the pyramids, but I’m probably wrong on that). I recall some of my friends, who were following this closely, being worried that such “nationalistic” icons as the Statue of Liberty would be voted into the list. Interestingly, when the results came out, good ol’ Liberty and some other country-specific building got among the lowest number of votes.

I would say that this might indicate that the public isn’t as herd-like as I thought, but it could also simply be that the ones who even bothered about the poll weren’t from the mainstream anyway.

…And man, this is long and I’ve forgotten what I was trying to say. XD

21 10 2007

Wow thanks for the long and insightful comment! Really appreciate it.

Your last sentence “I would say that this might indicate that the public isn’t as herd-like as I thought, but it could also simply be that the ones who even bothered about the poll weren’t from the mainstream anyway.” is so true.

If we gave the public the freehand of voting for what goes into the museum, we might actually end up with very similar pieces as before because majority of the non-art/history people like myself will be so ignorant we just won’t bother. Only those who really appreciate and care about art (aka those with the acquired taste) will be voting.

Coming to the new 7 wonders of the world, I never knew they conducted a public voting for it(just shows how ignorant I am about these things). I’d guess from what you said about some wonders being reserved on the list, they might have had “vote moderators” ensuring that the more accepted icons by the community of historians, curators and archaelogists got into the list. Or maybe they didn’t even need it since only members of that community participated in the voting.

22 10 2007

We can draw a parallel of this issue to a broader scope of who is “more correct”. The “expert” or the “general public”. Even in fashion, what is considered “trendy” or who sets the trend? The fashion designer or the general public who pays for the clothes?

22 10 2007
Chern Jie

Ever heard of That’s art 2.0 😀

23 10 2007

@arzhou: Haha I believe its the designers who design exclusive pieces that celebrities wear, which then sets the trend for the public.

23 10 2007

But where do the designers get their inspiration from?

It is common knowledge that most designers actually gain inspiration from eccentric tastes within the masses.

E.g. most of tommy hilfiger’s “trendy” designs are just copies of popular street wear in the ghetto regions in the US.
Its a vicious cycle. I have some great research papers on the cool hunt and the art of retailing which you might wanna check out..

27 10 2007
Yee Hoong

Never know you were actually into Arts too =)
It’s a very fascinating field and discussion too.

30 10 2007

Hmmm, that’s interesting.
There’s probably be some serious repercussion if we choose to apply the ‘concept’ of web2.0 to art.

I more into thinking about the consequence of Web 2.0 rather than the concept of Web 2.0 (etc voting, social network, )

So what did we observe from web 2.0 ?
– web app become commodity, and thus lost in value. First mover advantage is important.
– only a few dominate certain categories (eg: myspace, facebook in social network and Google in search engine)
– multiple clones with little differentiation.
– Market-focus rather than self-expression.
– users drive features and enhancement.

On the other hand, great art is priceless and valuable because
– true art is differentiation and independent of market. Market does not dictate what artist should should paint and create.
– art is about passion and expression, an artistic value rather than functionalities & feature . Reputation count more than first mover advantage (Many cool startup are found by unknown founder eg tumblr, jaiku, bluepulse, etc)
– Art is an abstraction not concrete.
– valuable art is not commodity but differentiated piece of work since no two art drawn by a same artist look the same.
– Art tend to be more subjective rather than objective. Some people will appreciate whereas other just won’t.
– Great art is a masterpiece that normally not driven by external vision/suggestion but by own vision and inspiration.

as a result, if we apply the concept of web 2.0, I fear that the world will be a very dull and boring place to live in. haha …

8 11 2007

Okay, according to the O’Reilly website you referenced as the definition of Web 2.0, then I would argue that your title is a bit misleading. Your real question is “What if art was available on a Web 2.0-like delivery platform?”

According to the O’Reilly website, Web 2.0 is a content-delivery platform and programming philosophy and model. Instead of centralising content delivery and programming tools to the webmaster and the company, some latitude is delivered to the end-user to be creative with how the platform can be used to achieve new forms of interaction. Web 2.0 also has a greater emphasis on sleeker interface presentation and community interaction as opposed to Web 1.0 which was ugly hand-coded html and standalone personal websites.

Then art cannot really be 2.0 itself, because web 2.0 is a content delivery system that has implications on what is current and what is not.

But lets take a look into art history, shall we? The most relevant would be Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of art (I hope I do it justice). He characterises the history of art as an explosion, with multiple vector threads going in varied directions away from the explosion. The explosion itself represents the world, while the threads represent a single work of art. Now, what happens in art is that art captures a particular aspect of the world, and in turn modifies the world. The next work of art looks at the world as it is modified by the last thread, and captures it again in another aspect. Thus, pieces of art are as though in “conversation” with each other, as though they were making comments on their style, media, etc.

You can see this is true even in a basic understanding of art history. Expressionism is basically a rejection of impressionism, which in turn was influenced by the Renaissance rediscovery of Plato. Impressionism embodies the philosophy of universal ideal found in Plato, and thus drew what they thought to be the perfect human form. Expressionism rejected this and therefore painted subjectively as the painter saw the world rather than conform to a particular idea. If I was any better at art history, I’d show you paintings and artists as well.

The problem with European art is that there is a long history and tradition of painters and paintings. Its like the humanities right now: there are certain authors we study more over others, and hence are more prominent and their works colour and influence our works. Students of art in Europe then are in conversation with their masters, rejecting or following them. While obviously the topic of a piece of art may differ, but there can be echoes of previous works of art.

That is why art or at least European art is inaccessible to most people. We’ve never learnt any part of the milieu of works that a piece of art is referencing. We haven’t been following the conversation from the beginning, so to speak. While a painting might look like the scribbling of a 6-year-old, without the cultural references we are blind to its meaning. This also means that these works are highly valuable because they were the dominant “conversation” of art around. Art museums also admit works based on whether a work adds to the historical conversation.

The implication of Web 2.0 to art is that art is more accessible to the public, and therefore, there can be more than just one conversational thread. That means that new traditions can be founded: think Harry Potter fanfics, the death metal scene, furry porn, etc. However, these traditions can be as just as impenetrable as European art.

The problem is that the works of European art remain outside of Web 2.0 as a medium. They are still highly exclusive to viewing and are not chronologically presented.

16 02 2009

rockjianrock – I am relieved and grateful for your enlightened input. Not only you do justice to Merleau-Ponty’s approach to art history but also to the serious and wonderful narrative of art in general and to artworks being produced in the modern and contemporary periods. Picasso, Pollock, Malevich etc are honorable products of an age-old discourse and, unless one can speak its theoretical language and visual codes, one should not dismiss it. As for science and technology, it’s up to any of us to become enlightened experts! 🙂

2 12 2010
False Nails

you just have to get used to modern art to appreciate the beauty of it .”.

28 04 2012
Rip Van Winkle

Good art is good art. If you knew anything about art AT ALL. You would know this. Those doodles have an energy that realism lacks. Your museum would suck. Here’s a great name for it.
Art Museum 2.0 – A celebration of ignorance.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: