Web hosts museums without walls

Increasingly, museums, galleries and exhibits are created on the Internet, without a physical address. This is something new in addition to the considerable Web presence for such “real museums” as the de Young (thinker.org), S.F. Museum of Modern Art (sfmoma.org), Asian Art Museum (asianart.org), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (ybca.org), and others.

I discovered the world of “virtual art” recently when trying to find some interesting galleries spotted on the Web. When no address could be found, in spite of a lengthy search, it became clear that there is something new going on — the equivalent of music downloading and YouTube exchange for exhibiting art.

An especially handy aspect of this new presentation approach is that sites can be interlinked without limit. The downside: broken links, incomplete addresses, routine computer problems interfering with the enjoyment of art … but at least you don’t have to bother parking.

In San Francisco, a major Web-only organization is The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco (sfmuseum.org), which features information and art of the city history: “The Gold Rush,” “The Great Fire and Earthquake,” and “Golden Gate,” a pictorial history of the bridge.

Also, the S.F. Virtual Museum serves as liaison to the Musee Mecanique (museemechanique.org), a San Francisco institution, and provides a link to the San Francisco Fire Department’s “Old 21” (sfmuseum.org/firestation).

The Virtual Gallerie (virtualgallerie.com) serves museums, galleries and educational institutions by creating interactive exhibitions, curatorial tools and virtual walkthrough programs. The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, for example, have a detailed tour on the Web, available starting from thinker.org.

Sausalito Art Galleries (sausalitoartgalleries.com) is a major — if at times frustrating — focal point for the “virtual art community in the San Francisco Bay Area” by indexing sources and making access available, although some links provide limited or no information.

GoldnGate (goldngate.com) claims to be the “first animated virtual art gallery” from the area, promising the experience of walking through a gallery with its 3-D animated presentation. GoldnGate’s exhibits include abstract and Impressionist works, clay ceramics, copper art, fashion designs, still life and seascapes.

Artist Resource (artistresource.org) and the California Arts Council (cac.ca.gov) point to many virtual galleries, including YLEM: Artists Using Science and Technology (ylem.org), which includes the San Francisco Exploratorium, individual artists and scientists and organizations. (“YLEM” is George Gamow’s term for a hypothetical original substance, which became subatomic particles and elements.)

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ “Underplayed” show included a component on YouTube as museum patrons were invited to submit music videos on the exhibition’s YouTube page. The project showcased artists who incorporate music into their imagery, or who experiment with noise and sound through the video format.

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