There are moments throughout the history of art, when, marveling at the latest aesthetic affront, the public, the critics, and even fellow artists have thrown up their hands and asked, “Where can we possibly go from here?”
And as art has grown ever more referential and every medium, self-referential— when there is nary an image that does not lay claim to a legacy of irony that is now generations deep: well: what can possibly come next?
Today MoMA announced the release of its new app for Apple’siPhone, and iPod Touch, now available on the App Store. It’s a free download that provides views of 32,000 works from the Museum’s collection, plus lots of very useful extras, including a dictionary of art terms, a database of artist bios, a calendar of exhibitions, film screenings, and events, and a variety of audio tours for youngsters, as well as for the visually impaired.
It was the last straw, when, in 2008, the National Academy Museum sold two Hudson River School paintings in order to cover operating costs.
Public art institutions, feeling the recession and finding no recourse, had already begun to whisper about a sale here and there: Fort Ticondergoa had proposed to sell some artifacts and then withdrew the idea, and The Metropolitan Opera had put up its Chagall murals as collateral for a loan. By 2009, Brandeis University was working with Sotheby’s on a lending program designed to avoid having to sell its entire Rose Art Museum collection.
With such threats to public art coming in ever increasing waves, a sense of urgency took over and the New York Senate, working with the Museum Association of New York and the New York Board of Regents, drafted a bill to prohibit cultural institutions from selling pieces of their collections to cover operating costs.
Toura, a New York mobile applications company that creates virtual tours will be using angel investors’ $1.5 million in seed money to develop virtual tours of cultural institutions and other attractions.
The Art Institute of Chicago is prepping its free multimedia app with Toura sometime in the next few weeks. The app is free and is expected to be available on a range of devices including the iPhone and iPad.
Toura claims that by handing them the keys to the virtual art space, those institutions will no longer have to worry about having an in-house technologist working on costly software programs in order to update their online content — Toura will do it for them.
“The Art Institute of Chicago is always looking for innovative ways to inspire and educate the public about our collection and exhibitions,” said James Cuno, the museum’s President and Director, in a statement. “Toura’s attractive package of technology and services makes it easy for us to bring the museum’s collection to life through a series of applications on smartphones, with the first coming later this spring.”