+ Artbabble.org: Your Online Art Destination

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ArtBabble is a Web site created by the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  It offers videos from sources including the Museum of Modern Art and the PBS series “Art:21.”

Kate Taylor writes in the NY Times that, as museums in the last few years have tried to take advantage of the Internet to connect to young audiences, they have produced an increasing nmber of online videos. 

Some are artist interviews, some are time-lapse shots of exhibit installations, some are short profiles of curators, art handlers, and even museum guards.

Most of these are featured on the museums’ own Web sites.  Some are moved to YouTube or blip.tv.   But until now, there has been no dedicated place on the Web for Art videos.

So Artbabble (http://www.artbabble.org/) is intended to change all that.

For the roll-out the Indianapolis museum invited several institutions to take part, including the New York Public Library, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the LA County Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It hopes to add more institutions, in the hopes that ArtBabble will become “the destination for art content online,”  according  to Daniel Incandela.  Incandela is the director of new media at the Inianapolis museum.

He adds that on sites like YouTube, an artist interview can get lost among the “music videos, blooper videos, and sort of more viral, edgier content.”  There’s also no way to browse content. 

And until recently, videos on YouTube weren’t available in high definition.  The majority of videos on ArtBabble are.

The home page, writes Taylor, is clean, clearly meant to draw in nonspecialists.  There are speech bubbles featuring punchy quotations; if you click on one, it will jump to the relevant video.

A mock dictionary entry tells us that “ArtBabble is a place where everyone is invited to join an open, ongoing discussion — no art degree required.”

The “Notes” Feature

An unusual feature, says Taylor, is the “notes” that accompany each video.  They run down a window to the right of the screen and offer links to related material.  In an interview with artist Robert Irwin, he mentions sculptors Mark diSuvero and Richard Serra; the notes link to Wikipedia entries for those artists.

Referring to Mr Irwin’s gardens at the Getty Center provides links to a YouTube video of them as well as the Getty’s Web site (www.getty.edu).

Some partner institutions are most excited about this notes feature.

“We can give an online viewer the opportunity to take countless tangents,” says Joshua Greenberg, director of digital strategy at the NY Public Library.  “It fits the core premise of librarianship, that it’s not just about putting something in someone’s hands but contextualizing it.”

ArtBabble is free to users.  The hosting fees and expenses are covered by the Indianapolis museum with the help of a grant from the Ball Brothers Foundation.  The museum will look for corporate sponsorship if the site becomes popular.

Maxwell Anderson, the museum’s director, says the goal behind ArtBabble and the museum’s own video production, is to allow visitors to experience the life of museums, whether through employee profiles, studio visits or videos of conservators restoring objects.

The advantage of making the new video site collaborative: obvious, he says.  “The strength and potency of this as a shared site is much greater than one museum at a time.”

The success of ArtBabble will depend partly on whether other institutions can be persuaded to join.

One international museum, the Tate in Britain, has devoted substantial resources to producing videos.  In collaboration with British Telecom, the Tate has put hundreds of videos on its Web site www.tate.org.uk .  There are studio visits with Jeff Koons and Gilbert & George, an archival interview with Francis Bacon.

Will Gompertz, director of  Tate Media, the branch which oversees its video production, says he hadn’t heard of ArtBabble, but based on a description, he thinks it’s a great idea.  

He thinks Tate would be delighted to put its videos on a site like ArtBabble.  “Nothing in this new world can be achieved alone.”

sole source: Kate Taylor’s article in the NY Times on 4/7/09.  www.nytimes.org

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