Learn how to curate digital spaces for art

It is part of the general consensus that presentation matters just as much (if not more) than the actual substance of that which is being presented.

We all know that “you eat with your eyes first” and that “the way that you present your work is almost more important than your work”. This is why art curation is such a big thing. Without curators, we would have exhibitions and presentations of art that would probably resemble more the insides of an artist’s studio or a chronological listing/rowing of the work, rather than an accessible presentation of selected works. The job of the curator is to “take care” of the art (as the etymology of the word implies). However, there seems to be a big domain of negligence on the curator’s part, in the current state of affairs: artist’s websites.

Thus far, the curation of artworks online has been done in a very skeuomorphic way. Skeuomorphism means that a digital entity (design or space, i.e. graphical interface) is designed in such a way that it directly mimics the original physical object/entity which it seeks to substitute virtually. Applying this to digital art galleries means, that the space aims to copy that of a real gallery. Through Covid, we have all warmed up to the idea of virtual exhibitions, and the skill to curate virtual spaces has vastly evolved. However, many would agree that virtual exhibitions/museum visits are still inherently less intuitive and dissatisfying than those in real life (and that is not even taking the social parts of exhibitions into account). I believe this is because:

We are trying to translate and squeeze a 3D experience into a 2D space.

Why make things more difficult than they could be. We don’t need to create virtual walls and rooms to curate a good virtual exhibition, rather we should learn the language of graphic design and website curation used for other websites and purposes, to better present artworks online. There are so many creative ways to digitally present art, and artists and curators alike should use these for their advantage.

Here are some new and interesting ways in which art can be curated in the digital space:

1. Rather than presenting the work in a static form (as has been done since the invention of the gallery/museum wall) we can now move towards a more interactive and engaging presentation of the static art piece, by adding interactive website animations to it.

Allowing the work to appear and disappear in novel ways. This works especially well for presenting timelines/biographies/CVs of artists.

(Example of an interactive CV: https://www.tobiasse.fr/expositions/)

2. Making art descriptions/captions more engaging with the work.

Rather than having one block of text, underneath the work of art, one can split up the text and assemble it around work, in a more intellectually digestible way.

(Example of digestible descriptions: http://archiviomariorusso.it/)

3. Use the “scroll” to tell and build a progressing storyline about the art/artist.

The scroll is one of the most powerful tools of web design, it emulates the movement of time through space, it is the digital version of turning the pages of a book. Why don't we try to create true page-turners?

(Example of beautiful storytelling through scroll: https://venus-story.com/)

Curators and individual artists need to move away from the predetermined & efficient “Instagram” gird displays of their art pieces, and towards a curated experience.

Art no longer only inhabits the tangible world, we need to learn how it can live comfortably and truthfully in the virtual space too.